Authentication is the process of allowing people, often employees, to identify who they are so that they can gain access to the company’s facilities or computer network. The process is extremely important to help prevent unauthorized access, which can lead to catastrophic data breaches. There’s a wide variety of authentication methods available, ranging from the simple (a single password) to the complex (multi-factor authentication that can include passwords, one-time codes and biometrics).
How Many Types of Authentication Are There?
There are three basic types of authentication that we typically consider. The first is knowledge-based — you know something like a password or PIN code that only you, the identified user, would know. The second is property-based, meaning you possess something, like an access card, key, key fob or authorized device, that only you should have. The third is biologically based, meaning something that’s a part of your physical body or a physiological or behavioral process that’s unique to you, like your fingerprint or your eye’s retinal pattern.
Within these main types of authentication is a number of common solutions that you may wish to use.
Common Authentication Methods
Some of the most common authentication methods that you’re likely to encounter include:
- Token authentication: This solution is a property-based authentication, like a card with an RFID chip in it. The advantage to this type of authentication is that a hacker would need the physical item to gain access.
- Passwords: The most common and well-known form of authentication is the password. You set a password that only you know and link it to your username and account. When you enter that password, if it matches, the system knows it’s you. While passwords are common and easy to set up, they’re also inefficient as a sole method of authentication because they’re easy to lose, forget, guess or steal.
- Physiological biometrics: Some examples include fingerprints, eye patterns (iris or retina) and even vein pattern. Biometrics are very popular because a biometric authenticator cannot be forgotten like a password or lost like an access card. No one can take and use a person’s physiological biometrics without subjecting the real user to physical trauma.
- Behavior biometrics: Some examples include keystroke dynamics, voiceprints and gait analysis. Certain behavioral patterns are unique to individuals, such as how quickly and how hard they hit certain keys when typing, how fast or slowly they speak and how big a stride they take when they walk. These kinds of biometrics cannot be stolen under any circumstances and are nearly impossible to duplicate, making them highly effective authenticators.
- Multi-factor authentication: Most companies are warming up to the fact that truly secure identity management requires multi-factor authenticationz, meaning two different authentication requirements, such as a password and an eye-scan. While one authentication factor may be hackable, it’s exponentially harder to hack two or more. Hand-in-hand with MFA are time-sensitive, one-time passwords. This method allows the user to obtain exclusive access to a password that will only work for a short amount of time, making it useless to steal after that period has expired.
To learn how Optimal IdM products can protect your system with state-of-the-art authentication and authorization products, contact us today.