Passive Cyberattacks: Can You Prevent Them?

In the tech world, cyberattacks are no joke. These incidents have caused millions of dollars in damage, whether from ransomware, malware, or another culprit. Cyberattacks are typically direct, and you’ll know when you see them. A cybercriminal demands money before you can reaccess your files.

However, another type lies in the shadows: passive cyberattacks. How can you prevent them? Here’s what they are and the steps you can take to protect your systems.

What Are Passive Cyberattacks?

Passive cyberattacks are dangerous because they’re challenging to detect. A thief committing a passive attack will enter your network but not do anything. Instead, they’ll monitor you and others while you conduct everyday activities. In the meantime, the cybercriminal will collect data and find vulnerabilities in your system. 

Once the intruder gathers enough information, they can turn their passive attack into an active one. The objective is to remain hidden. Your anti-virus software can detect an active attack, but it is more challenging to defend against passive ones. They could come and go without you ever knowing the thief was present in your network.   

What Are the Types of Passive Cyberattacks?

A passive cyberattack can happen at any time. There are numerous passive attacks, so knowing what’s happening in your network is essential. These six are the ones to watch out for.

1.   Traffic Analysis

A traffic analysis attack is the epitome of a passive cyberattack. Cybercriminals will enter your network and monitor traffic, looking for patterns. For instance, they want to know your active hours on the web and when you access specific websites. Traffic analysis attacks are common in the military for intelligence gathering but can also happen to your network.

2.   Dumpster Diving

Some passive attacks can go under the radar because they don’t occur on a computer. Cybercriminals using the dumpster diving tactic will search your physical records like paperwork to find old passwords and sensitive information. Many people discard these files in the trash, leading to the namesake.

Dumpster diving can also occur on your computer. Deleted files don’t disappear forever. Your computer’s memory has allocated space for these records, and cybercriminals know it. They often scour for sensitive information.

3.   Eavesdropping

Eavesdropping is similar to the traffic analysis attack because the cybercriminal monitors the network’s activity. The thief listens to phone calls or monitors unencrypted messages between individuals, whether by email, text, or another medium.

Eavesdropping attacks are challenging to detect because the bugging devices don’t harm the network alone. Once inside, the attacker can use software to steal all information users enter. These dangers demonstrate why public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous, especially for those using company devices.

4.   Spying

Spying is a passive cyberattack that people and organizations have used for decades. It became prominent during the 20th century’s world wars for code-breaking and other intelligence gatherings. Today, spying attacks target your Wi-Fi network.

In a spying attack, thieves infiltrate your network and act like authorized users. Authorization lets them watch and capture your encrypted data traffic. They can also install spyware, which passively collects a user’s information without their consent. 

5.   Wardriving

Wardriving is a more personal passive attack because it requires the attacker to be close to you. Typically, the cybercriminal roams the streets in a van, scanning for unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Wardriving typically includes recording the address on a GPS and saving the information for a future active cyberattack.

6.   Footprinting

The final form of passive attack is footprinting. This method is the most active because it means the attacker records the maximum information about your network. They want to know your IP address, domain name, and other factors. Cybercriminals use footprinting to lay the groundwork for a penetration test.

How Can You Prevent Passive Cyberattacks?

The last thing you want is a cyberattack, passive or active. However, there are ways to lower the chances of a passive attack on your home and office networks. Here are five tips for prevention. 

1. Intrusion Prevention System

The most direct way to tackle a passive cyberattack is with an intrusion prevention system (IPS). It continuously monitors your network and conducts port scans to ensure no intruders have infiltrated. The attackers can view your ports without an IPS and record their vulnerabilities. You may need to close unnecessary ports because one that’s unpatched or misconfigured could lead to an unwanted listener on your network.

2. Network Address Translation

Network address translation (NAT) is another route you can take. This tactic is effective against traffic analysis attacks because it separates internal and private networks. NAT devices keep your information safe because they hide your IP address. NAT is a solid deterrent because attackers won’t be able to detect who connects to what in the network.

3. Cybersecurity Training

Your network security is only as good as the treatment of your computer. Cybersecurity training is worthwhile for you, your co-workers, and anyone who handles technological devices daily. Employee neglect is a top reason for cyberattacks, so cybersecurity training acts as a defense against attacks from perpetrators.     

4. Encryption

Thwarting passive and active cyberattacks requires encryption. This involves converting your information into a code that’s nearly impossible to unscramble. In ransomware attacks, the thieves aim to take your information and hold it for ransom. However, they’ll find the data useless if it’s behind a code.

5. Updated Software

It may be inconvenient when you get a notification for a software update. However, swiftly enabling it is necessary for your cybersecurity. Companies provide patches for holes in their software; without them, your software could be vulnerable to cyberattacks. Criminals have an easier time infiltrating systems if they’re not updated regularly.

In 2017, the WannaCry virus attacked Windows users who did not download an update Microsoft released a few months before the attacks. 

Successfully Thwarting Cyberattacks

Cybersecurity is a significant concern, especially with attacks surging since the pandemic. You must be vigilant of passive and active cyberattacks to keep your systems safe.