What is Authentication?
Authentication is the method of verifying the identity of a user so they can be granted permission or access to use a certain service, application or network. This is important for maximal security of a network and the prevention of unauthorized access.
Authentication involves a user providing credential information recognizable by the system which helps to confirm their identity and grant them access to the network. Now that most companies and businesses run a segment of their services and transactions online, different types of authentication methods have been established to ensure the maximum security of their network.
Common types of authentication methods
The choice of authentication usually depends on the sensitivity of the information trying to be accessed. The more sensitive, the higher the security level of the authentication.
Types of authentication methods include;
1. Password authentication
This type of authentication is one of the most used and common type of authentication which involves the user inputting a set of numbers, letters or characters known as a password which has been previously set on the system in order to gain access to a network or service.
Password authentication provides an acceptable level of security at a low cost and allows easy and uncomplicated access of users to the system. The common demerit of this authentication is the chance of the user forgetting his or her password.
2. Biometric authentication
This is another common type of authentication being used. For biometric authentication, the user is identified based on their biological features or traits. At the initial registration, the system captures and stores the biological features of the user which it uses to compare whenever the user requests access.
Biometric authentications are secure and non-transferable due to the unique biological features present in different individuals. This makes them difficult to forge but the system can be hard and expensive to set up.
Examples of authentication methods under biometric authentication include:
- Fingerprint scanner: This involves the use of a technology that senses the unique loop pattern of the user’s fingerprint and compares it to the originally submitted fingerprint pattern for verification.
- Face match: This identifies a user based on their facial structure and features e.g. forehead, eye length, etc. This confirms if the right person is trying to gain access to the system.
- Voice recognition: This identifies users based on their voices with the help of machine learning. The voice pitch, speech pattern, etc, are taken into the record so as to recognize subsequent voice input by the user
- Eye scanner: This authentication uses the unique structure of a user’s iris and pupil with the help of infrared light.
3. Token authentication
Token authentication requires a unique access token provided to the user. It can also involve the system sending a token, like a unique code, to the registered mail or phone number of the user which he/she would have initially submitted.
It has a renowned advantage because an unauthorized person can only get into the system when they have access to the device or code.
4. Certificate-based authentication
This authenticates users based on the provision of a digital certificate which would be used to identify the user and give them access to the network. The user gets the certificate issued to them beforehand which is usually controlled and monitored by the administration of the network.
A disadvantage of this type of authentication is that digital certificates are easily prone to theft, therefore, there is a risk of unauthorized access to personal information.
5. Multi-factor authentication
This is a type of authentication process that involves the provision of two or more authentication factors by the network to verify a user. It involves the combination of a series of verification steps to be completed by the user which gives it a higher level of security, thereby, making it less susceptible to cyber-attacks and more secure than regular single-factor authentications.
An example is a two-factor authentication factor which requires a double layer of verification. After inputting your username and password, you’ll still require an additional login credential before you can gain access to your account. The additional login credentials can include biometric information, receiving code via text messages, using a mobile app to generate code, etc.