Cain & Abel is a popular free password recovery tool that allows users to recover various types of passwords by capturing network traffic and cracking encrypted passwords using dictionary, brute-force and cryptanalysis attacks.
In this guide for beginners, we will cover everything you need to know to start using Cain & Abel on Windows 10, 8, or 7.
What is Cain & Abel?
Cain & Abel, often abbreviated CAIN, is a password recovery tool developed by Massimiliano Montoro that allows users to recover lost or forgotten passwords by sniffing network traffic and launching dictionary attacks.
Some key features of Cain include:
- Password recovery via sniffing for a variety of protocols including FTP, HTTP, IMAP, MSN, SMTP, and more
- Cracks encrypted passwords using dictionary, brute-force, and cryptanalysis attacks
- Has extensive wordlists for dictionary attacks in many languages
- Recovers wireless network keys
- Reveals cached passwords on a system
- Dumps hashes for offline cracking
Cain is one of the most popular free password cracking tools available and is a useful tool for both ethical security professionals and hackers.
Is Using Cain Legal?
An important question that often comes up with using a tool like Cain is whether or not it is legal. The legality depends heavily on usage. Using Cain against systems you own to recover lost passwords is perfectly legal.
However, using Cain to crack passwords on systems you do not own consent for could violate computer crime laws. Make sure you only use Cain legally on systems you own or have permission to assess.
Downloading and Installing Cain
Cain & Abel can be downloaded for free from the Cain & Abel homepage listed in the references section below.
To download Cain, scroll to the bottom of the homepage and click on “CainAbel423.zip” to download the latest version. At the time of this writing, Cain is up to version 4.9.24.
Once downloaded, extract the archive and launch the Cain.exe executable. The tool will open up immediately without requiring an install. Cain can be launched from any location on your system.
Cain Main Interface Overview
When you first launch Cain, you will be presented with the main interface which is divided into multiple tabs, with the Sniffer tab opened by default.
Here is an overview of Cain’s main interface tabs:
Sniffer Tab: Captures passwords by sniffing network traffic
Cracker Tab: Cracks encrypted passwords
Decoder/HexEditor Tab: Decodes encrypted passwords
ArpPoison Tab: Intercepts switched LAN traffic
Sniffer Protocol Tab: Configure protocols for the password sniffer
Getting Started Sniffing Passwords
The quickest way to start recovering passwords with Cain is by sniffing your network. The steps below walk through an example of using Cain to sniff and crack FTP passwords:
- Click the Sniffer tab then press the + button to start capturing packets.
- Once Cain starts sniffing packets, open your FTP client and connect to an FTP server on your network. Perform some activity like uploading or downloading files.
- Go back to Cain and click the + button again to stop packet capture. You should see your FTP connections appear in the top pane.
- Select an FTP session and click the green cracking icon on the toolbar to launch a password cracker attack. This will recover the account password!
In the same way, you can capture packets and recover passwords for services like IMAP, SMTP, HTTP and more.
Using Cain to Crack Encrypted Password Hashes
In addition to sniffing plain-text passwords directly, Cain can import encrypted password hashes and attempt to crack them through dictionary and brute force attacks.
Here is the basic process to use Cain’s cracker:
- Click the Cracker tab > Category Logons > LM & NTLM Hashes to select hash type
- Click the yellow folder icon on the toolbar to import your hash file
- Select dictionary or brute force attack then click the Play button to start cracking
- Cracked passwords will display in green when found
You can also click Arrays at the top to customize wordlists for dictionary attacks or set brute force parameters. Cain can crack everything from local SAM hashes to dumped MD5 and SHA1 hashes.
Using the Cain Decoder/Hexeditor
Cain has a built-in hex editor and decoder useful for analyzing encrypted passwords and manually decoding formats like base64 and HTML encoded text. Click the Decoder/HexEditor tab to access the tool.
Pasting an encoded string into the main text box then selecting the proper decoding from the dropdown will allow you to easily decode encrypted text captured while sniffing.
Advanced Features and Uses
Cain has many advanced features and applications as well including:
- ARP cache poisoning on switched networks
- Caching password decryption allowing offline cracking
- Session hijacking by spoofing IDs in captured traffic
- Cain integrations in Metasploit Framework
- Analyzing authentication protocols
- Low level packet inspection and editing
These more advanced functions provide deeper capabilities but require significant networking and security knowledge to properly utilize.
Cain is an indispensible tool for password auditing and recovery for both network admins and security testers.
Using Cain Securely and Ethically
Because Cain allows recovering passwords without consent, it becomes vitally important that you only use this tool responsibly, legally, and ethically.
Never use Cain to hack or test systems that you do not own or have permission to access. Only recover passwords on your own systems or with proper approval.
Like many powerful tools, Cain can be misused with disastrous consequences if not handled properly. Please use Cain legally and ethically.
Getting Help Using Cain
As you get started using Cain & Abel, one of the best ways to learn is by reading the extensive documentation available covering all Cain features in depth.
The Cain Readme file is very detailed and theopenwall.info site has an entire Cain wikiwith guides as well. For additional help, the Cain support forums linked below have an active community.
As always with powerful tools, take time to properly learn usage before diving too deep. Have fun exploring everything Cain can do!
Cain & Abel Homepage: https://www.oxid.it/cain.html
Cain & Abel Support Forums: http://www.oxid.it/boards.html
Openwall Cain Guide: http://www.openwall.com/wiki/cain