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Authentication vs. Authorization – What’s the Difference?

How Authentication Differs From Authorization

If you’re not a technical person, then it’s quite apparent that you may come across a specific word that may confuse you. Many stories have battered around that describes different things about computer networking and security. Still, sometimes it gets challenging to find out which word describes what, and you may tell it something different from what originally it’s.

For example, Authentication and Authorization sound similar, but when it comes to its meaning, they’re different.

These two terms – Authentication and Authorization are often used in conjunction when the discussion is regarding gaining access to the system and security. Both are also associated with the web as one of the infrastructure services. But, that’s also the fact that people often confuse these words with each other, especially those who have no IT security background.

If you think what these Authorization and Authentication are called? No worries, we’re going to cover the same.

  • Authentication means confirmation of your identity, and Authorization means allowing access to the system.
  • Authentication is a type of process which ascertains that somebody is what they claim they’re. And Authorization refers to a set of rules that help to determine who should be allowed to do what.

For example, Bob may only be authorized for creating and deleting databases, whereas Alice is assigned only for reading.

authentication vs authorization

Authentication – What Is It?

Authentication is regarding credentials, for example, Username and Password for identity verification. Here, the system checks whether you are what you say you are through your credentials. Whether you’re using public or private networks, the system authenticates users’ identity through login details, namely, username and password. However, there are other methods for Authentication, but this is the most basic one, which is used almost by everyone.

An authentication factor is determined using different elements of the system, which is used for verifying someone’s identity before giving access to anyone regarding anything. However, an individual’s identity is determined through what a person already knows. And, at least two or three authentication factors are also involved, which needs to be verified for granting access to the system. According to the security level, the authentication factor differs through these three:

  • Single – Factor Authentication
  • Two – Factor Authentication
  • Multi – Factor Authentication

Single – Factor Authentication

Among the three, it’s the easiest authentication factor. It requires a password for granting access to a website or any network. Here, a person has to request access to the system with the help of credentials for verifying one’s identity. For instance, a password along with username will verify your login credential and grant you access.

Two – Factor Authentication

In this authentication factor, as the name implies, the two-step verification process takes place. Along with username and password, one more piece of information has to be provided, which is only known to the user. Due to this Authentication, it becomes quite challenging for hackers to gain access to the account or steal personal data or sensitive information as one more confidential information along with username and password is needed whenever anyone tries accessing that account.

Multi – Factor Authentication

Among the three, it’s the most advanced authentication method. It needs two or more than two levels of security along with other independent Authentication for granting access to the system. It makes use of factors that are independent of each other while eliminating data exposure. It’s quite common among financial sectors, banks, and law enforcement agencies.

Authorization – What Is It?

On the other hand, Authorization comes into picture once your identity successfully gets authenticated by the system. Due to which you get access to resources like files, funds, databases, sensitive information, and so on. Though Authorization is needed to verify your rights for granting you access to resources once your access rights are determined, in other words, Authorization is the process that is used for determining whether the user who’s authenticated has access right for the particular resources. The best example could be, once the employee User ID and password get authenticated, the next thing will be to decide which employee will get access to which floor, and it’s done using Authorization.

Let’s have a quick look at the differences between Authentication and Authorization.

Authentication Authorization
Referred to As It helps decide whether users are what they claim they are. It helps to decide which user is allowed to access what.
Identity Verification User identity has to be verified via a username and password or answering a security question. It verifies whether the given access is allowed by following rules and policies.
Process Typically this process takes place before Authorization. It takes place once Authentication is completed.
Transmission It transmits information via ID Token. It transmits information through an Access Token.
Administration It’s administered through the OpenID Connect (OIDC) protocol.q It’s administered via the OAuth 2.0 framework.
Different Ways Different ways of Authentication are:

  • Authentication factor
  • Captcha test
  • Biometric Authentication
  • Passwords
Other forms of Authorization are:

  • OAuth (Open Authorization)
  • Permissions – Read & Write access to files and allowing access to the database.
  • Deciding the roles of users for accessing data
Controlled Through It’s controlled through the server for finding out who’s accessing what data or site. The server helps to decide that client has the authority to access a resource or not.
Example Example: Employees authenticating through the network before opening the company mails. Example: Once an employee is authenticated, the different system decides which information will be accessed by which employee.

Here’s the Key Difference Among the Two – Authentication & Authorization

The key difference among the two, Authentication and Authorization is that:
  • Authentication is used for the verification process to identify user’s credentials, and Authorization is used for validating user’s rights to access the resource.
  • Authentication is the first step, and after that, Authorization takes place.

Summary

Sometimes both Authorization and Authentication are often used in combination, but they are different in meaning as well as concepts. However, both are crucial for web service infrastructure as both are used for granting access to a system. Many times terms Authorization and Authentication indeed get confused with one another, so you must know the difference between them – it’s quite simple too. For instance, Authentication helps to decide whether it’s you who you say you are, and Authorization comes into play to provide access rights – what you can access and modify.

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