In order to get into a secured system, you'll have to first break in---and a lot of times, the first step in doing so requires cracking a password. Contrary to popular belief, password cracking doesn't actually require a lot of heavy-lifting. Instead of spending hours at a computer screen trying your hand at thousands of random combinations, the computer does the work for you. So while the process is less labor-intensive than those pictures of hackers staring intently at the computer screen make it seem, you'll still need to know the correct methodology for going after login data. Typically, most password cracking is done using brute-force---a cryptanalytic method that systematically checks all possible passwords against a cryptographic hash of the password until the correct one is found. Brute-force password cracking is most efficient when passwords are short, and sometimes a password can be figured out within seconds depending on a password's strength. When passwords are longer, and therefore, stronger, locating a password may take a lot longer. In these cases, brute force may cause issues for a hacker. No one wants to be found with their hand in the cookie jar, now do they? It's never a good look to spend so much time trying to figure out a password that you're discovered trying to penetrate a system. Luckily, there's more than one way to locate an user password. Dictionary attacks, pattern checking and word-list substitution are all alternative methods used by penetration testers to crack passwords. Additionally, you can write and run scripts to grab the password data you need. The best penetration testers know how to swap methods depending on the situation, security and span of time the password is to be cracked. It's helpful to have a good post-exploitation plan in place so that you'll be able to grab the data you need without being seen. Want to join their ranks and learn how to crack passwords the right way? Take some time to take hacking courses and do some hands-on activities using sites like HackThisSite to hone your skills. The plethora of free information on the internet these days has enabled literally everyone (including your kid sister and tech-challenged uncle) to become hackers. Whether they have the skill to do it well is another story. In the meantime, stop procrastinating, and learn to crack some security.