Types of Authentication Methods (Digital Authentication Methods)

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Data breaches are exceedingly common in the present era, and hackers are using advanced techniques to enter into organizations' security systems. Hence, simple password credentials are not enough for users to prevent data breaches. 

Typically, organizations add multiple layers of security systems to safeguard sensitive information so that it does not land in the wrong hands. To measure how effective an authentication solution is, you have to look at two components. These are security and usability. Each of these components is important. 

Defined as the process of verifying the authenticity of the user or device, digital authentication is important to shield sensitive applications, data, and services. 

To shield sensitive data, there are a number of digital authentication methods out there. Before we venture into the methods of digital authentication, let us see their significance.

You can think of digital authentication as the first line of defense against an organization's resources. It ensures that only authorized users have access to the organization's information. 

Setting up multiple-factor authentication benefits individuals and companies at large. Each method of digital authentication brings forth a different set of pros and cons to the table. This makes the organization’s security more robust. Depending on the level of security you want, you can opt for the one. 

Without any further ado, let us check out some of the methods of digital authentication. 

The Fundamentals Of Authentication

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of authentication methods, we must first understand the fundamentals of authentication. 

Your computer performs verification in certain ways. These are:

  1. Based on something you know - This includes a password or PIN (personal identifying number). This way is the most common. It is typically used as an initial verification for most instances of securing data. 

  2. Based on something you carry - This includes a flash drive or an RFID  card. These devices may come with certain drawbacks, such as insufficient reading range and a possibility of being copied. But they are convenient, contactless, and grant access control readily.  

  3. Based on something you are - This includes all the biometrics like fingerprints, face recognition, voice recognition, etc. 

Common Authentication Methods

Common Authentication Methods

Now to understand digital authentication methods better, let us look at the most common authentication methods:

1. Password-based Authentication

Password-based authentication is one of the most common forms of authentication. You know a secret password, and all you have to do is enter it into the system to access it. 

To make a strong password, you should use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and special characters. It must be at least 15 characters long, and you should not use the same password for every account. 

Though, on the one hand, the complexity of your password enhances the security of your account, it also makes it difficult to remember it. Here, you can use tools like password managers/vaults or SSO to log into multiple accounts using just a master password. 

2. Biometric Authentication

Through the use of biometric authentication, you can verify a person’s identity based on their unique biological features. There are four major types of biometric authentication such as face match, fingerprint scanner, voice recognition, and eye (iris or retina) scanners. 

Biometric authentication is based on the very identity of a person, which ensures high security. It is convenient and fast. And the best part is everyone has a unique set of biometrics, ruling out transferability. 

Yet, the cost of installing biometric authentication is a handsome sum. Not to forget that if a data breach occurs and biometric data is released, it can damage the security of all those who have biometrics saved on the system. 

3. Behavioral Authentication

Behavioral authentication follows a process of measuring unique patterns. The identification is based on the typical ways in which an individual interacts with devices like smartphones, tablets, or computers. 

For instance, one such method of behavioral authentication includes a Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTHAs). While CAPTCHA cannot verify an individual’s identity, it can classify if the inputs have been received from a human or a machine. 

One key advantage of behavioral authentication is that it is less invasive. Since the process of authentication just notices the way a person interacts with their device, they need not put in any extra effort in getting recognized. A disadvantage is that behavioral biometrics is not yet completely matured to be deployed on a wide scale. 

4. Device Recognition 

Another method called device recognition works on giving authorization to devices and consequently people using those devices. Typically, endpoint security management platforms recognize hardware and give immediate access to the ones already registered with the system. 

Device recognition is generally used in companies that follow the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at the workplace. This recognition method serves as an added layer of precaution.

You may have seen that some applications don't ask you to verify subsequently if you approve that the device is secure after you log in. 

5. Token Authentication 

Token authentication includes material devices used to gain access to secure systems. Certain devices such as dongles, RFID chips, or cards are used for this method of authentication. The use of a token makes it difficult for hackers to access a particular account as they need to have password credentials along with the device. 

A significant advantage of this method is that it is difficult to fake. The digital identity of a token follows complex security standards, making it difficult for cybercriminals to get access to. Yet, one disadvantage is that this authentication method can be undermined by the user. You can lose a token, and it can get stolen. 

6. Certificate-based Authentication

In this method of authentication, you use a digital certificate for user identification along with password-based credentials. This solution can be used for various endpoints like machines, devices, and users. This makes it a unique form of authentication. 

A good deal of certificate-based authentication solutions emerges from cloud-based management platforms, making it easier for administrators to monitor, manage, and issue the new certificates to the employees.  

Generally, more than one method is deployed for enhanced security, a concept known as 2 factor or multi-factor authentication. The users need to verify themselves twice in order to gain access to the systems. 

Using two-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication, an organization can create a robust identity and access management policy. This reduces the chances of data breakers. Even if one of the methods gets compromised, the systems are secured till all the authentication methods are broken.

Identification Authentication Methods 

Let us now look at some identification authentication methods:

1. API authentication methods 

In the present day, API handles a tremendous amount of data while adding new layers of security to online services. There are various API authentication methods out there, but below we have listed three major ones:

  • HTTP Basic Auth: A user agent gives a username and a password to give proof of their authentication. In this approach, there is no need for cookies, session IDs, or login pages as the HTTP page is leveraged. 

  • API Keys: API Keys are supposed to identify from where the web service requests originated. A key is produced whenever a first-time user tries to get authorized access to a particular system via registration. From that point, the API key gets associated with a particular token. It is submitted with the requests going forward.

  • OAuth: OAuth is considered one of the most secure means of API authentication. It supports both authentication and authorization. OAuth permits the API to carry out authentication by setting up the scope and accessing the system. 

2. User authentication methods

User authentication methods

User authentication methods include the following:

  • Password-based authentication: Recognized as one of the most common ways of digital authentication, a password-based method requires a strong password to secure data or accounts. 

  • Biometric authentication: As discussed already, biometric authentication uses biological features to identify an individual’s identity. 

3. Vault authentication methods

Vault authentication includes a process through which a user or a machine supplies information and that information is verified against some internal or external system. Vaults usually support various authentication methods such as GitHub, LDAP, AppRole, etc. 

4. Web application authentication methods

Web application authentication methods include the following:

  • Cookie-based authentication: This method has been the default method of user authentication for a long period. In this, the server verifies the credentials to create session-id and store it in the server. It is then returned to the client through a set of cookies. 

  • SAML: SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) is XML based flexible method of authentication. It also provides a means to get Single SignOn (SSO). 

5. Wireless authentication methods

Some key wireless authentication methods are:

  • WEP: Wired Equivalent Privacy or WEP is the second authentication option supported by the first 802.11 standards. WEP exists to make a wireless network as secure as a wired network. It supports open authentication and shared key authentication. 

  • 802.1X/EAP: The initial 802.11 standards worked only for open authentication and WEP. Through a port enabled with 802.1X, the network access becomes limited to the clients who can successfully authenticate. 

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