# brute force

Also found in: Idioms, Wikipedia.

## brute force

(programming)
A primitive programming style in which the programmer relies on the computer's processing power instead of using his own intelligence to simplify the problem, often ignoring problems of scale and applying naive methods suited to small problems directly to large ones. The term can also be used in reference to programming style: brute-force programs are written in a heavy-handed, tedious way, full of repetition and devoid of any elegance or useful abstraction (see also brute force and ignorance).

The canonical example of a brute-force algorithm is associated with the "travelling salesman problem" (TSP), a classical NP-hard problem:

Suppose a person is in, say, Boston, and wishes to drive to N other cities. In what order should the cities be visited in order to minimise the distance travelled?

The brute-force method is to simply generate all possible routes and compare the distances; while guaranteed to work and simple to implement, this algorithm is clearly very stupid in that it considers even obviously absurd routes (like going from Boston to Houston via San Francisco and New York, in that order). For very small N it works well, but it rapidly becomes absurdly inefficient when N increases (for N = 15, there are already 1,307,674,368,000 possible routes to consider, and for N = 1000 - well, see bignum). Sometimes, unfortunately, there is no better general solution than brute force. See also NP-complete.

A more simple-minded example of brute-force programming is finding the smallest number in a large list by first using an existing program to sort the list in ascending order, and then picking the first number off the front.

Whether brute-force programming should actually be considered stupid or not depends on the context; if the problem is not terribly big, the extra CPU time spent on a brute-force solution may cost less than the programmer time it would take to develop a more "intelligent" algorithm. Additionally, a more intelligent algorithm may imply more long-term complexity cost and bug-chasing than are justified by the speed improvement.

When applied to cryptography, it is usually known as brute force attack.

Ken Thompson, co-inventor of Unix, is reported to have uttered the epigram "When in doubt, use brute force". He probably intended this as a ha ha only serious, but the original Unix kernel's preference for simple, robust and portable algorithms over brittle "smart" ones does seem to have been a significant factor in the success of that operating system. Like so many other tradeoffs in software design, the choice between brute force and complex, finely-tuned cleverness is often a difficult one that requires both engineering savvy and delicate aesthetic judgment.

## brute force attack

The systematic and exhaustive testing of all possible combinations of keys or passwords that can be used to break a security system. For example, if the username of an account is known, the brute force attack attempts to find the password. In a reverse brute force attack, the password is known and the brute force method tries to find the username. See dictionary attack. See also brute force programming.

## brute force programming

Programming a solution to a problem by using the most straightforward method. However, it is typically not a very elegant solution or one that is flexible for future changes, but it gets the job done. The proverbial brute force programming example is creating the most efficient and least costly route for visiting multiple venues and returning home ("the traveling salesman problem"). Brute force programming tests every possible routing combination; whereas other mathematical algorithms obtain the results more quickly when the number of venues is large. See hard coded. See also brute force attack.
Copyright © 1981-2019 by The Computer Language Company Inc. All Rights reserved. THIS DEFINITION IS FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY. All other reproduction is strictly prohibited without permission from the publisher.
References in classic literature ?
"The vapor, the influence of that brute force,--it has bewildered me and obscured my perception.
He has the brute force, and his last word on any subject could always be his fist."
But when to their feminine rage the indignation of the people is added, when the ignorant and the poor are aroused, when the unintelligent brute force that lies at the bottom of society is made to growl and mow, it needs the habit of magnanimity and religion to treat it godlike as a trifle of no concernment.
They had found out about our meetings in the cave: nothing simpler than to have me kept hard at it overhead and to carry off Faustina by brute force in the boat.
This is a bit of brute force seldom resorted to except in matters of life and death, and the little "We're Here" complained like a human.
A day after being confined to the Srinagar airport for an hour and then sent back to New Delhi, India's Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said he experienced the 'draconian administration and brute force unleashed on the Kashmiri people.'
According to reporter, during the month of July nearly eighty people were critically injured due to the use of brute force and firing of pallets, bullets and teargas shells by Indian police and paramilitary personnel against peaceful protesters in the territory.
Furthermore, the captain questioned the Royal Marines' actions, "How do you come on a ship like this with armed forces and such brute force. For what reason?" He said the marines could have simply boarded and told him he was under arrest.
EMEA is the global hotspot for brute force access attacks, according to new research from F5 Labs.
Summary: Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], June 3 (ANI): Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said Kashmir is a political problem needing a political redressal and the new Home Minister Amit Shah expecting a "quick fix" through brute force is "ridiculously naive".
As the cat tries to get away a man comes into view and appears to kick the cat with "brute force".
ISLAMABAD -- Several people were injured when Indian troops and police used brute force in occupied Kashmir, on protesters in Baramulla district.

Site: Follow: Share:
Open / Close