Difference Between Active and Passive Attacks

Difference Between Active and Passive Attacks

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Anshuman
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on May 9, 2024 16:19 IST

The main difference between active and passive attacks is that a hacker attacks the system and modifies the data or information in an active attack. In contrast, in a passive attack, a hacker attacks the system but does not modify the data or the information.

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Active and Passive attacks are two main types of attacks in which cyberattacks can be classified. But, many of us are unaware of the difference between an active attack and a passive attack or what these attacks are. So, in this article article, we will explore what active and passive attacks are, along with the difference between them.

Table of Contents (TOC)

Difference Between Active and Passive Attacks 

For a better understanding, let’s cover the difference between active and passive attacks in a tabular format. Here’s the table:

Benchmark Active Attack Passive Attack
Definition It is a type of attack in which hackers modify the information or the data. It is an attack in which hackers do not modify the information or the data.
It is a danger to the Integrity and availability of the data. Confidentiality of the data.
Causes harm to the system? Yes. No.
In this type of attack, attention is on Prevention. Detection.
In this attack, is the victim informed that he has been attacked? No. Yes.
Can this type of attack be easily prohibited in comparison to the other? No. Yes.
Can it be easily detected? Yes. No.
The duration of this type of attack is Short. Long.
The prevention possibility of this type of attack is High. Low.
Complexity High. Low.
Purpose To harm the system or the organization. To learn about the system or the organization.

Here’s an image that illustrates the difference between active and passive attacks:

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What is an Active Attack? 

Active Attack Definition: An active attack is a type of cyberattack in which a hacker attacks a system and modifies the data or the information per his requirements to perform malicious tasks. 

During active attacks, the attacker takes an active role in an attempt to gain unauthorized access to a system or network. To do that, they can perform various malicious activities, such as injecting malware, launching a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, or altering data. An active attack typically aims to gain control over the system or steal data.

When an active attack happens, the victim gets informed about the attack as the data changes or modifies. And because of the data modification, these attacks greatly threaten the integrity and availability of data.

Here are some examples of active attacks:

  • Phishing: In this attack, the hacker attempts to gain unauthorized access to a computer system to size, modify, or steal data.
  • Man-in-the-Middle: In this attack, the hacker catches and transmits communications between two parties who assume they are talking directly with one another
  • Ransomware: In this attack, the hacker uses malware to prevent a user or organization from accessing files on their computer.

You can also explore: What is a Salami Attack and How to protect against it?

What is a Passive Attack?

Passive Attack Definition: A passive attack is a cyberattack in which a hacker attacks a system and copies or reads the contents of the message or the information available but does not modify the information.

During passive attacks, the attacker monitors and eavesdrops on the network traffic to gain access to confidential or sensitive data. Passive attacks are extremely hard to identify, as the attacker does not actively take part in the attack. Hence, the victim is uninformed about the attack as there is no change in the data.

Here are some examples of passive attacks:

  • Eavesdropping: In this type of attack, the hacker listens in on other people’s conversations without their knowledge.
  • Footprinting: In this type of attack, the hacker gathers as much information as possible regarding a computer system or network to find ways to penetrate it.

Key Differences Between Active and Passive Attacks 

Here are the key differences between active and passive attacks:

  • A passive attack does not harm the attacked system, whereas an active attack does.
  • An active attack can be easily deducted, whereas a passive attack is difficult to detect.
  • In an active attack, the victim is informed that he has been attacked, but that’s not the case in a passive attack.
  • An active attack is a danger to the integrity and availability of the data. Whereas a passive attack is a danger to the confidentiality of the data.
  • The purpose behind active attacks is to harm the system or the organization. But, passive attacks aim to learn about the system or the organization.
  • An active attack is a type of attack in which hackers modify the information or the data. In contrast, a passive attack is an attack in which hackers do not modify the information or the data.

You can also explore: Difference Between Phishing and Vishing

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored what active and passive attacks are. We have also explored the difference between active attacks and passive attacks. If you have any queries related to the topic, please feel free to send your queries to us in the form of a comment. We will be happy to help.

Happy Learning!!

FAQs

Are active attacks more dangerous than passive attacks?

Active attacks are typically more dangerous than passive attacks, as they can cause damage to data, systems, and networks. However, both types of attacks can be serious threats to your security, and it is important to take steps to protect yourself from both.

Why are active attacks more difficult to detect than passive attacks?

Active attacks are more difficult to detect than passive attacks because they typically involve modifying or disrupting data, or taking control of the system. This can cause noticeable changes to the system's behavior, which can alert security personnel to the attack. Passive attacks, on the other hand, do not typically cause any noticeable changes to the system's behavior, making them more difficult to detect.

How can I tell if I have been the victim of an active or passive attack?

If you have been the victim of an active attack, you may notice disruptions to your systems or networks, such as slow performance, crashes, or data loss. If you have been the victim of a passive attack, you may not notice any immediate disruptions, but your data may have been compromised.

What should I do if I think I have been the victim of an active or passive attack?

If you think you have been the victim of an active or passive attack, you should immediately disconnect your system or network from the internet and contact your IT security team. They will be able to help you assess the damage and take steps to mitigate the attack.

About the Author
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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio