What cyber security authentication is, and what it is not
Contributing Author

First, what is Cyber Security authentication?

The process of authenticating the identity of a user or device seeking to access a system, network, or application is known as cyber security authentication. Authentication is an important aspect of cyber security since it ensures that only authorized people and devices have access to sensitive resources and data.

Cyber security is all about closing gaps. The best place to start is by authenticating access points. This is a function done on many different levels, all depending on the security requirements put in place.

Let us dive deeper into what authentication is and what it is not, so you can determine how well secure is your organization and where your cyber security is lagging behind.

Authentication vs. Authorization

Authorization is the process of deciding whether a previously authenticated person or device is permitted to execute a certain activity or access a specific resource. This is often determined by the user's system role, permissions, or privileges. A user, for example, may be authenticated to access a system but only permitted to view specific data or execute specific activities inside that system.

As you see, the two are not the same and they work together to secure organizations, identities, devices, and networks.

One prominent system of granting privileged access to privileged users is known as Privileged Access Management (PAM).

Authentication is the process of validating a person's or device's identity, whereas authorization is the process of determining what that authenticated user or device is permitted to do or access. Authentication and authorization are both key components of cybersecurity, and they are frequently used in tandem to guarantee that only authorized people and devices have access to sensitive resources and data.

Learn more about the difference between Authentication vs Authorization.

5 types of cyber security authentication

    1. Password-Based Authentication

This is the most common type of authentication, which involves users entering a username and password to access a system or application. Password-based authentication is easy to implement, but it can be vulnerable to password theft, social engineering attacks, and brute force attacks.

When it comes to password protection, it is impossible to discuss this authentication method without mentioning Password vaults.

A password vault, sometimes known as a password manager, is a piece of software that securely saves and manages passwords and other confidential data, such as credit card numbers and personal identification numbers (PINs). A password vault allows users to generate and save complex, unique passwords for many accounts and websites, removing the need to recall them all.

Password vaults function by encrypting user passwords and other private data and storing it in a secure database. Users may access their password vault with a single master password, providing an additional degree of protection.

    2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi factor authentication (MFA) requires users to provide two or more forms of authentication before being granted access to a system or application. This can include something the user knows (such as a password), something the user has (such as a security token or smart card), or something the user is (such as biometric data). MFA is more secure than password-based authentication, as it requires attackers to compromise multiple factors in order to gain access.

    3. Certificate-Based Authentication

Certificate-based authentication involves the use of digital certificates to authenticate users and devices. Digital certificates are issued by trusted authorities and can be used to verify the identity of users and devices. Certificate-based authentication is more secure than password-based authentication, as it is difficult to forge or steal digital certificates.

    4. Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication involves the use of physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans, to verify the identity of users. Biometric authentication is more secure than password-based authentication, as it is difficult to fake or steal physical characteristics. However, it can be vulnerable to spoofing attacks, where attackers use fake fingerprints or facial images to gain access.

There are hundreds of different biometric authentication methods. This depends on what level of security is required. On-prem, network, cloud, device, etc. All these different attack points would entail a different security method.

We could deep dive further into each case. On-prem laboratory conditions may require fingerprint authentication, or even visual (eyeball) authentication. It all depends on the level of security.

Other methods, similar to the aforementioned are fingerprints, facial recognition, or voice recognition, to verify the identity of a user.

    5. Behavioral Authentication

This method involves analyzing the behavior of users, such as keystroke dynamics, mouse movements, or device usage patterns, to verify their identity. Behavioral authentication is more secure than password-based authentication, as it is difficult for attackers to replicate user behavior. However, it can be vulnerable to false positives, where legitimate users are denied access due to changes in their behavior.

A modern type of this authentication is the behavioral driven governance (BDG).