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Table of contents
What is a Security attack?
What is Active Attacks?
What is Passive Attacks?
Difference between Active Attack and Passive Attack
Frequently Asked Questions
How active and passive attacks are dangerous?
Why is it difficult to detect a passive attack?
Why Some attacks are passive and some attacks are active?
How do passive and active attacks compare in cyber security?
What are your recommendations to prevent active attacks?
Last Updated: Mar 27, 2024

Difference Between Active Attack and Passive Attack

Author Aditya kumar
Master Python: Predicting weather forecasts
Ashwin Goyal
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Active and passive attacks are the two forms of attacks connected to security. An attacker tries to change the content of the messages in an active attack. An attacker monitors the communications and duplicates them in a passive attack.

In this article, we are going to discuss the most important differences between Active Attack and Passive Attack. 

Difference between Active Attack and Passive Attack

What is a Security attack?

A security attack refers to an attempt to exploit vulnerabilities or weaknesses in a system or network in order to compromise its confidentiality, integrity, or availability. Security attacks can take many forms, such as viruses, malware, phishing, denial-of-service attacks, and unauthorized access to sensitive information. The goal of a security attack can be to steal information, damage or disrupt services, or gain unauthorized access to a system.

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What is Active Attacks?

An active attack might be a network exploit in which the attackers modify or alter the content and cause a system resource to be impacted. The victims will suffer harm as a result of it. The attackers might use passive attacks to gather information before launching a more aggressive strike. The attackers try to break into the system and cause it to lock. The victims can be alerted about the ongoing attack. Their integrity and accessibility may be jeopardised due to such an attack. A forceful attack is more challenging to execute than a quiet attack.

Man-in-the-middle (MitM), impersonation, and session hijacking are examples of active attacks. The Attacker sends data to the client, Credential Service Provider, Verifier, or Relying Party via the authentication protocol.

Active Attacks

What is Passive Attacks?

The passive attack is the initial sort of attack. For specific functions, a passive attack can monitor, observe, or develop the use of the system's data. However, it does not affect the system's resources, and the data remains unaffected. Because passive attacks are carried out in stealth, it is difficult for the victim to notice them. The goal of a passive attack is to get data or to search the network for open ports and vulnerabilities.

An example is when an intruder uses a packet analyser programme like Wireshark to record network data for subsequent examination.

Passive Attacks

Difference between Active Attack and Passive Attack

Let us now check the Difference between Active attack and Passive attack. We are comparing both security attacks on the basis of some characteristics mentioned below:

On the basis of Active Attacks Passive Attacks
Modification  Modification of information occurs during an active attack. Modifying the information does not happen during a passive attack.
Threat Active attack poses a threat to integrity and availability. Confidentiality is at risk from passive attacks.
Focus During an active attack, the focus is on detection. During a passive attack, the focus is on avoiding harm.
Harm The system is permanently harmed due to an active attack. There is no harm to the system due to the passive attack.
Victim In an active attack, the victim is notified of the attack. The victim is unaware of the attack while under passive attack.
System Resources System resources can be modified during an active attack. System resources do not alter when in the passive attack.
Impact Active attacks have an impact on the system's services. Information and communications in the system or network are collected during a passive attack.
Information During the execution of active attacks, information gathered from passive attacks is utilised. Passive attacks are carried out by gathering information such as passwords and messages on their own.
Prevention An active attack is brutal to restrict from entering systems or networks. In comparison to an active attack, the passive attack is much easier to prevent.


Frequently Asked Questions

How active and passive attacks are dangerous?

Active attacks attempt to modify, destroy or disrupt network or system resources, while passive attacks attempt to steal or monitor sensitive data. Both types of attacks can be dangerous, compromising confidentiality, integrity, and availability of systems and data, and leading to financial and reputational losses.

Why is it difficult to detect a passive attack?

Passive attacks, such as eavesdropping and monitoring network traffic, do not involve any modification of data, making them difficult to detect. They can go unnoticed for extended periods, and sophisticated attackers may use encryption or obfuscation techniques to evade detection.

Why Some attacks are passive and some attacks are active?

Attacks can be either passive or active depending on the attacker's goals and the techniques used. Passive attacks typically involve monitoring or intercepting network traffic to gather sensitive information without modifying it. Active attacks, on the other hand, involve modifying or disrupting data and network resources to achieve their goals, such as gaining unauthorized access to a system or causing a denial of service. 

How do passive and active attacks compare in cyber security?

Passive attacks are more difficult to detect and may not cause immediate damage, but can compromise the confidentiality and integrity of data. Active attacks can cause immediate damage to system availability and integrity and require more resources and planning by the attacker.

What are your recommendations to prevent active attacks?

To prevent active attacks, organizations should implement strong access controls, keep systems and software up-to-date with the latest security patches, use encryption for sensitive data, monitor network traffic for anomalies, and provide regular security awareness training for employees.


In this article, we have discussed the difference between active and passive attacks. Today, cybersecurity is an essential element of our lives. It is critical to safeguard our gadgets against attackers' nefarious activity. The most challenging difficulties in any organisation are active and passive attacks. Any Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) will always utilise a passive attack to gather knowledge about the infrastructure and network, which may subsequently be used to manufacture a targeted active attack on the infrastructure, which can be challenging to prevent or create disaster for the organisation.

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You can read many topics related to Cyber Security by visiting the archives section and starting with network security with the blog Introduction to Network Security.

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