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As digital transformation revolutionizes the workplace, more organizations are incorporating the latest tech into their operations. 

Automation programs, cloud-based tools, and the like have become staples for organizations since these innovations ensure that daily tasks are done efficiently. The growing use of technology has also increased the need for robust cybersecurity solutions. 

As your organization optimizes its cybersecurity infrastructure, you might have instances where you’d confuse one security term for another. In cybersecurity, a common example of this is authentication vs. authorization. 

What is Authentication?

Authentication occurs when individuals or tools validate users to ensure they are who they claim to be. Authenticating your identity is often the first step in any security process. 

Individuals and organizations use authentication tools as the first form of security when confidential or sensitive data is involved. It ensures that only the right set of people can view the data kept behind security. If your information is listed within the authentication technology’s database, you’ll be granted access once your identity is verified. 

Enforcing authentication measures in your organization can also give you peace of mind by providing additional protection protocols to prevent malicious activities like data breaches. There are many types of authentication technology, often ranging from passwords to biometrics. 

1. Single-factor authentication

Also referred to as primary authentication, single-factor authentication is the most common method of authenticating someone’s identity. Additionally, it’s the most user-friendly since the process is straightforward. Common single-factor authentication processes include the standard username and password or a personal identification number (PIN). 

While considered the most common, it also bears the reputation of being the least secure. It’s because you only need one factor to access the entire system. Because of this, infiltrating a system becomes easy, especially if the people behind the cybercrime operation are experienced professionals. This authentication is more susceptible to phishing or keylogging. 

2. Two-factor authentication

As its name suggests, the two-factor authentication process is similar to its single-factor counterpart, except the added verification further reinforces the security and better safeguards important information. With this authentication, compromising one factor won’t result in the culprit gaining access to the entire system. 

The first factor involves users inputting their username, password, or other login identification. Once the system has verified your identity, it’ll require you to provide more information. The second layer can vary depending on the system but will generally include any of the following: a secret question, keystroke pattern, and PIN.

3. Multi-factor authentication

Compared to both single-factor and two-factor authentication processes, multi-factor authentication is a high-assurance method of protecting your data. It uses more than two authentication factors when users want access to a certain resource. 

The biggest benefit of this authentication is that it improves the likelihood of the right people getting into your system. You’ll need to provide at least two other verification means besides putting in your username and password, such as one-time passwords (OTP) or biometric data. 

What is Authorization?

Authorization is when a user is successfully permitted to access important data or resources. It’s done right after the authentication process is complete. Additionally, it’s only granted to individuals who have proven their identities to the system and are listed among those allowed to view the protected material in the first place. 

The authorization process starts with authenticating a person’s identity. Once the identity is cleared and deemed genuine, the system will go through its database to determine the extent of access you can have. 

For an organization using cybersecurity tools, your access can be based on your authority within the company. Your seniority, title, or position can impact the information you can see once you gain access. 

Once you’ve authenticated your identity and the system has decided on the scope of the information or resources you can access, you’ll be given access control to the resources. 

The Differences Between Authentication and Authorization

Both terms refer to the different steps in a secure login process, so you mustn’t use them interchangeably. 

Authentication acts as the first step and first line of defense in any security access process. It only verifies user credentials when you ask for access to resources. You also enter passwords, biometrics, PINs, and other means of identification. 

Authorization, alternatively, is the permission users are granted before they access important data. It bases its decisions on settings managed or maintained by an organization’s IT team. The authorization process also always follows authentication. Users seeking access to information can’t see or change authorization decisions. 

Even if they mean different things, authentication and authorization go hand in hand when implementing a secured cybersecurity framework. If you want your organization to thrive online, opt for an access management solution that equally supports both functions. 

Authenticate, Authorize, Access

When it comes to authenticating and authorizing, both fulfill different functions, despite having similar-sounding names. Hopefully, this article has helped you answer the questions about authentication and authorization and their differences. 

If you’re planning to improve your cybersecurity infrastructure, learning the technicalities of the cybersecurity landscape and the solutions you can take is a must. For more information regarding cyberspace and how you can better protect your organization, feel free to consult with us to learn more about our identity and access management solutions.

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