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What are Active and Passive Attacks?

Passive Attacks:

Passive attack is an attack in which the purpose of the attacker is to only monitor or gain information about the system and/or its users i.e. traffic. This is only done to get the information from there without any aim of changing or damaging it. Passive attacks are considered to be attacks on confidentiality since the information present on the victim system is compromised in this type of attack. For example, if the system is of a shopping cart which stores the financial data of its customers such as credit card or bank account then this information is at risk. The attacker monitors the traffic on the network and finds that the user is sending his credit card information and captures that information.
Passive attacks are quite difficult to track since the data is not altered by these attacks.

Active Attacks:

In this type of attack, the intension of the attacker is to alter the information from the victim’s system. The attacker makes changes to the data present at the victim’s system which may result in different behavior from what the normal behavior is.  Apart from changing information, the attacker might also block the transfer of information from the user side to the system and hence attack on availability. For example, say that a user is sending its information such as name, etc. to the system. The attacker would block the information from passing to the server by means of an attack.
Another type of active attack is attack on authenticity where the authenticity of the information is lost due to the attacker fabricating the message that the user sends to the system. The attacker kind of hijacks the message that the user wants to send and changes that message and sends his own as it the message is sent by the user himself.
Yet another type of active attack could be an attack on integrity. In such a case, the attacker would make modifications to the messages exchange between the user and the system. In such a case, the integrity of the messages is off course lost.

How to handle Active and Passage Attacks:
Passive Attacks:

In case of passive attacks, the primary focus is on prevention. The detection of such attacks are difficult since the information is not changed by the attacker and hence the focus is to prevent this kind of attack from occurring. The prevention is fortunately easy for such attacks.

Active Attacks:
These attacks are hard to stop but the detection part is easy. This is primarily due to the amount of vulnerability that might exist in the hardware and software that the server has.


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