This is more of a question on the actual use of the terms rather than the definitions, so my question is this:

Are dictionary and rainbow table attacks a type of brute force attack or are they different entirely? Would it be okay to call a dictionary attack a brute force attack?

I've had this question for a while now but googling gives lots of conflicting answers.

  • Examples of those conflicting answers would be useful because, to me, it's very clear.
    – schroeder
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:21

1 Answer 1


Dictionary attack

You try all the words in the configured dictionary. That's the definition of a brute-force attack.

Rainbow table

You pre-hash a dictionary or a permutation of possible entries to create a lookup table with very efficient indexing. You compare the hash you want to crack to the pre-hashed entries in the lookup table. This is not a brute-force attack. This is a "pre-calculation".

  • So a dictionary attack could be called a type brute force attack, while a rainbow table attack is a different attack entirely?
    – luek baja
    Sep 27, 2021 at 12:31
  • Rainbow tables are time and memory trade attacks. For one target they are useless, just execute brute-force. For multiple targets, build a table. Of cource, one must tune the table before building.
    – kelalaka
    Sep 27, 2021 at 22:48
  • @kelalaka well, not "useless", just insanely inefficient.
    – schroeder
    Sep 28, 2021 at 7:21
  • Yes, you are right. I was hope that you will wrote a longer version for the OP. +1 for the hope...
    – kelalaka
    Sep 29, 2021 at 17:39

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