Authentication is a process that ascertains whether something or someone is whom they say they are. Authentication technology gives access control for systems by checking to see if a user’s credentials match those in the database of permitted users or a data authentication server. It ensures that the systems, processes, and enterprise information security is secure.
There are several types of authentications. For user identity purposes, users are identified by a user ID. Authentication occurs when the user keys in credentials such as a password that matches the information on their ID.
The user ID and password requirement are called single-factor authentication (SFA). Recently, many companies have strengthened their authentication by requiring additional authentication factors. These factors include a unique code given to a user over a mobile device when they attempt to sign in or a biometric signature such as a thumbprint or facial scan. This is referred to as two-factor authentication (2FA).
Authentication can go beyond SFA and 2FA. Three or more identity verification factors can be used for authentication. For instance, a user ID and password, a personal question the user must answer, and a biometric signature can be used. This is called multifactor authentication (MFA). This piece explores the fundamentals of authentication and all you need to know.
How Does Authentication Work?
The credential a user provides is compared with those in the database during authentication. The information is found on an authentication server or local operating system server. If the credentials entered are the same as those on record, the entity is permitted to use the resource, and hence the user is allowed access.
User permissions decide the resources users gain access to and any other access rights associated with the user. The rights can include the number of resources the user can consume and the hours the user can access the resource.
Authentication was achieved by systems or resources being accessed in the past. For instance, a server would authenticate individuals using its password system, username, and login IDs. However, web application protocols are stateless, meaning users must reauthenticate using HTTPS every time they access a resource. The authenticating system grants a signed authentication token to the end user’s application to simplify user authentication for web applications. The token is appended to every client’s request meaning that a user will not have to sign on each time they use a web application.
Authentication factors are a specific category of credentials like passwords and usernames. Other authentication factors exist through password authentication is the most common type of authentication. There are three types of authentication passwords, as indicated below:
- Something You Know
This authentication factor requires the user to show they know something. In most cases, this will be a Personal Identification Number or password shared between the Identity Access System and the user. The system will require you to provide shared information to use this factor.
- Something You Have
You need to prove you have something as a user in this case. The required item can be a smart card, mailbox, or smartphone. The system will challenge you to ensure you have the requisite authentication factor. For instance, you might receive a Time-based One-Time-Password (TOTP) to your device in a text message or email.
- Something You Are
The third factor is based on information about the user, which is exclusive to that user. It is called the inherence factor, and it is typically biometric. It can include voice, fingerprints, or facial recognition.
What Is the Significance of Authentication?
Cyber-attacks are a threat to organizations today. More people are working remotely, and cloud computing is becoming the norm in many industries. Thus, the threat landscape has grown in recent years.
According to a recent study, 94% of enterprise organizations have experienced a data breach, with 79% being breached recently. In 2020, most organizations experienced phishing attacks, while there were brute force and credential stuffing attacks. This resulted in high helpdesk costs from password resets.
Authentication has become a crucial mitigation strategy to protect sensitive data and reduce risk. It helps users and organizations protect their systems from bad actors seeking to exploit or gain access to private information. The systems can include networks, computer systems, websites, devices, databases, and other services and applications.
Organizations that incorporate authentication as part of their identity and access management (IAM) infrastructure strategy enjoy multiple benefits such as:
- Limiting data breaches
- Achieving regulatory compliance
- Managing and reducing organizational costs
Types of Authentications
There are different kinds of authentication. Below are some of them:
- Single-factor authentication
- Two-factor authentication
- Three-factor authentication
- Multi-Factor authentication
- Single sign-on authentication
- One-time password
- Passwordless authentication
- Certificate-based authentication
Authentication is a vital aspect of modern computer networks and systems. It ensures that only authorized persons have access to sensitive resources and information. The most common forms of authentication include passwords, two-factor authentication, and biometrics.
It is essential to keep authentication systems updated and to teach users the best practices for managing and creating passwords. Organizations can protect their assets better and keep their user information secure by understanding the different kinds of authentications and implementing them.