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Password crackers are essential tools in any pen tester's toolbox. This step-by-step tutorial explains how to use John the Ripper, an open source offline password-cracking tool.

Red teams and blue teams use password cracking to gain access to systems and to detect weak user passwords or test defenses during red team-blue team exercises. 

Password crackers can be online or offline. Online password crackers, such as Hydra, are used when brute-forcing online network protocols and HTML forms. Situations where online brute forcing might be impractical include a remote system that limits the rate of sign-in attempts or a system that locks users out indefinitely after a predefined number of invalid login attempts.

In these scenarios, an offline password cracker attempts to gain access to a password where it is stored instead of using a brute-force attack strategy. Since systems and applications rarely store passwords without cryptographic protection, passwords must be cracked to make use of them.

A popular offline password cracker is John the Ripper. This tool enables security practitioners to crack passwords, regardless of encrypted or hashed passwords, message authentication codes (MACs) and hash-based MACs (HMACs), or other artifacts of the authentication process.