Here on this blog, we regularly use terms like authentication, authentication, or authorization. These terms are all related, but have certain differences. These differences can also be relevant for enterprises. We explain them to you in this article.
Authentication is a proof of identity. This proof is checked by a system or a person as part of authentication. A classic example of authentication is the identity card, which is mandatory for every resident in order to be able to authenticate themselves at any time.
In the digital world, the user name in combination with a password is often used for authentication. However, this is an extremely insecure method. Although the system checks the correctness of the combination of name and password, basically anyone can enter this data and gain access to an account.
Secure authentication should be done using more complex methods. One example of this is encrypted connections. Pure passwords are too easy to crack and open many opportunities for fraudsters to gain access to your account.
What is authentication?
Authentication is the process of checking the authenticity of the proof of identity provided during authentication. To stay with our ID card example: Authentication is a check of the authenticity of the identity document and matching it with the person. So basically, whether the person and the ID card actually belong together and that can be officially confirmed.
In IT, for example, authentication is checking in the system whether the combination of user name and password exists. One can only authenticate oneself if both match exactly.
Authentication should always involve two-factor authentication. This cannot be circumvented by hackers even if they possess the authentication information. For example, Reiner SCT’s Authenticator generates a new one-time password every 30 seconds to log into accounts. These one-time passwords therefore expire quickly and are thus unusable after a very short time. Hackers could not use them even if they found out the passwords.
Authorization is the granted permission of access or entry that results from successful authentication and authentication.
In the example with the ID card, it is the access to a company or establishment.
Authorization can be granted in full or limited. In a company, for example, visitors can be granted access to the meeting room. Authorization for production halls, however, remains prohibited, for example, and only occurs when certain employees are authorized.
In the digital realm, authorization also occurs for specific areas. An account on a website, for example, permits the writing of comments or posts. However, it is not possible to make changes to the page itself.
In the case of programs used by companies, the restrictions lie, for example, in access to certain areas and tasks. For this, additional administrator rights must be granted.
Authorization can be used to control which person has which privileges in a system or workspace. It is best to grant these privileges exactly as they are needed.
It can also be useful to work with different accounts. For example, with an account that has all privileges and an account that is used exclusively for processing jobs. This way, the administrator account can only be used when necessary and is less likely to offer opportunities for attack. If an account with fewer rights is hacked, the damage remains less, or at least it is more difficult to infiltrate malware into all systems.
The differences between authentication, authentication and authorization lie primarily in the fact that they basically build on each other and are therefore dependent on each other. What they have in common is that all three serve to control identity and grant access. This applies both in the “real” world and in digital applications.