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Difference between Active Attack and Passive Attack

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Prepbytes

The origin of active attack and passive attack can be found within the roots of cybersecurity, where both are the types of attacks that attackers perform to expose any form of vulnerability in the system. This article is going to be very interesting and important for readers who are interested in cybersecurity. We are going to discuss two major types of security attacks in cybersecurity that are active and passive attacks and we will also look at some significant differences between active attack and passive attack. So, without any further ado, let’s start.

What are Passive Attacks

As we discussed the two attacks, let us look at what they mean and how they are a sign of concern, in order to get informed on active and passive attacks.

Passive Attack
A passive attack is the type of attack where the attacker monitors or keeps track of what the system is involved in such as the network traffic or system activity. It is highly secretive as it does not change or alter the flow of the data. The main objective of the attacker performing the passive attack is to get the sensitive information of the user such as obtaining the login credentials without the knowledge of the user.

A few of the most common examples of passive attacks can be packet sniffing, traffic analysis, and keystroke logging.

Packet Sniffing
Packet sniffing is the process of intercepting and analyzing data packets as they travel in a connected network. It can be used for troubleshooting network issues or for unethical purposes such as stealing sensitive information of a user.

Traffic Analysis
Traffic analysis is based on analyzing the patterns formed in network traffic and its behavior to get information sensitive to the users and devices on the network. However, it is helpful in pointing out what can be potential security threats or bettering the network performance or knowing user behavior better.

Keystroke Logging
It occurs when the user’s keystroke on the keyboard is accessed in order to steal the sensitive information typed by the attacker. To avoid such a scenario, it is advisable to use a screen keyboard with a mouse for entering sensitive information. It is also used for constructive purposes such as monitoring the activity of employees.

What are Active Attacks

Unlike the passive attack discussed in the last section, an Active Attack is a direct attack carried out by the attacker that hampers or performs disruption to the flow of data, even attempting to steal the sensitive information of the user.

Active attacks can prove to be more dangerous to the user than the passive as they directly break into the system the user to alter or get access to the user data. A few of the most common examples of active attacks can be malware infections, denial of service (Dos) attacks, and man-in-the-middle attacks.

Denial of Service
As the name suggests itself, it is among the attacks that take over the system through traffic leading it to be unusable. This is executed by sending a high amount of traffic to a website or a large number of requests. Methods used to curb this attack are rate limiting, firewall, and intrusion detection.

Man In The Middle Attack
An attack where the attacker gets himself in between the user and the application to eavesdrop on the data or gain access to the data thereby being a threat to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the data.

Difference between Active and Passive Attack

As we saw what active and passive attacks mean individually and the types of an active and passive attacks, let us look at the key differences between active attack and passive attack given below:-

Active Attack Passive Attack
1. Alteration of information is possible. 1. Alteration of information is not possible.
2. Active attack victims are aware of the attack. 2. Passive attack victim is not aware of the attack.
3. System resources are changed. 3. System resources are not changed.
4. Active attack poses a threat to the integrity and availability of data. 4. Passive attacks can pose a threat to the integrity and availability of data.
5. It is better to prevent such attacks 5. Passive attacks are prioritized to be detected rather than prevention.
6. Performed over a short duration. 6. Performed over a long duration.
7. It is comparatively easier to prevent. 7. It is difficult to prevent.
8. Performed in order to attack the system. 8. Performed to get the information about the system.
9. The execution system gets damaged in this form of attack. 9. No harm occurs to the system.

In short, while both active attack and passive attack pose a serious threat to the security of computer systems and networks, they differ in their goals, methods, and potential impact. It’s important to implement strong security measures to prevent both active attack and passive attack from succeeding.

In this article, we studied what active and passive attacks are by looking at some common examples of both active and passive attacks. We saw the key differences between both active attacks and passive attacks.

We hope you liked this article on the Difference between active attack and passive attack and hope to see you again at PrepBytes with another informative article from our side.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions on active attack and passive attack.

1. What is the main difference between active and passive attacks in cybersecurity?
The main difference between active and passive attacks in cybersecurity is that active attacks involve the attacker making changes or modifications to the targeted system or data, while passive attacks involve monitoring and eavesdropping on the system or data without altering it.

2. How do active attacks differ from passive attacks in terms of the level of intrusiveness and potential harm caused?
Active attacks are generally more intrusive and have a higher potential for causing harm than passive attacks. This is because active attacks involve manipulating or modifying data or systems, which can result in data loss, system crashes, or other types of damage. In contrast, passive attacks are typically limited to monitoring and gathering information, which may not directly cause harm to the system or data.

3. What are some examples of passive attacks and how do they differ from active attacks?
Some examples of passive attacks include eavesdropping, traffic analysis, and monitoring network traffic to obtain sensitive information. In contrast, active attacks include denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, malware infections, and phishing attacks, which involve actively manipulating or modifying data or systems.

4. How can organizations defend against both active and passive attacks, and what are some common strategies used to prevent them?
Organizations can defend against both active and passive attacks by implementing a combination of technical and non-technical security measures. Technical measures may include encryption, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and anti-malware software, while non-technical measures may include security awareness training, access control policies, and incident response planning. Common strategies used to prevent attacks include regularly updating software and systems, using strong passwords, and limiting access to sensitive information.

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