In cryptanalysis and computer security, password cracking is the process of recovering passwords from data that have been stored in or transmitted by a computer system. A common approach (brute-force attack) is to try guesses repeatedly for the password and check them against an available cryptographic hash of the password.

The purpose of password cracking might be to help a user recover a forgotten password (installing an entirely new password is less of a security risk, but it involves System Administration privileges), to gain unauthorized access to a system, or as a preventive measure by system administrators to check for easily crackable passwords. On a file-by-file basis, password cracking is utilized to gain access to digital evidence for which a judge has allowed access but the particular file's access is restricted.

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