No business is completely safe from cyber attacks. Reports show, in fact, that over two-thirds of cyber attacks involve small businesses. Small businesses are viewed as long-hanging fruit by hackers. They have fewer and weaker layers of security than medium- and large-sized businesses, making them easier targets for an attack. While all cyber attacks involve some type of unauthorized intrusion, there are two primary types of cyber attacks: active and passive.

What Is an Active Cyber Attack?

An active cyber attack is an intrusion in which a hacker attempts to directly modify resources or harm the victim’s operations or activities. When performing an active cyber attack, the hacker doesn’t care whether he or she is discovered by the victim. Active cyber attacks are blatant, and they are often identified immediately or shortly after being executed.

Common types of active cyber attacks include the following:

  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)
  • Domain name spoofing
  • Ransomware
  • Computer viruses

What Is a Passive Cyber Attack?

A passive cyber attack, on the other hand, is an intrusion in which a hacker attempts to learn more about a victim’s machine, network or other systems without being noticed. Passive cyber attacks are performed with the goal of collecting data. It involves a hacker breaking into one of the aforementioned systems, during which he or she collects data without being noticed.

Common types of passive cyber attacks include the following:

  • Phishing emails
  • Eavesdropping
  • Data packet sniffing
  • Keyloggers

Differences Between Active and Passive Cyber Attacks

Active and passive cyber attacks differ in several ways. Active cyber attacks, for example, are easily discovered by victims. If a hacker attempts to modify resources on your business’s network, you’ll probably notice it. Passive cyber attacks are more discreet and may go unnoticed for an extended period.

In most cases, active cyber attacks are more destructive than passive cyber attacks. This is because active cyber attacks don’t just look at resources; they modify them. The use of ransomware is considered an active cyber attack because it modifies resources with encryption. Ransomware encrypts data so that the victim can’t access it. Anytime a hacker modifies resources following an intrusion, it’s considered an active cyber attack.

Passive cyber attacks can often lead to active cyber attacks. A hacker may perform a passive cyber attack to identify vulnerabilities within a victim’s network. After identifying a vulnerability, he or she may exploit it to perform an active cyber attack.