Authentication vs Login: Know the difference

The amount of data keeps increasing globally, and users have to find ways to protect their data. A straightforward way of protecting data is to create a password or PIN that only authorized users can use to access such data. As an internet user, you are likely to come across words like authentications and login in data protection, and you might be wondering what’s the difference between the two.

So, what is the difference between authentication and login? Authentication is the verification of a user to determine if they are who they declare to be. Authentication technology uses a user credential to confirm their identity, for example, matching your username and password before allowing access. Login, on the other hand, is the set of credentials used to verify a user. There are different forms of logins such as a PIN, passcode, password, or biometric identifier. Biometric identifiers include fingerprints or retina scans.

Authentication and login are very important in ensuring that only the right person gains access to sensitive data. Many websites and organizations require users to have usernames and passwords for authentication and authorization.

Every time you use your smartphone or check your emails on the laptop, you have to use specific forms of verifications to gain access. If the verifications are wrong, the smartphone or laptop will request you to try again or lock you out.

Authentication is simply a way of confirming the identity of a user while the login is the credentials one uses to prove that they are the authorized user. Authentication involves two steps, which are first entering the correct login information and second confirming that it is you entering the information. There are different types of login credentials that you can use, such as PINs and Passcodes. There are also different authentication factors that one can use when verifying themselves.

In the digital world, there are several ways of protecting your information from unauthorized access. Most people use PINs and passwords to verify their identity. Authentication involves matching your user details with the login credentials. For example, your email address is your identity, and the password is the method you use to prove that you are the one seeking access to the email address. A username and password combination is the most common method to authenticate a user’s identity.

To authenticate your identity, you need certain credentials, and most often, they are in the form of a PIN, passcode, or password. Logins are used to access certain websites, computers and laptop applications, and even access to certain locations inside buildings. Login is a way to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data or locked areas.

For example, if your password does not match the user account, you will not have access to the account until you get the password right or change it. Some organizations are also improving security in their building by giving access to certain areas to specific employees. Therefore, if one has to go into a certain room, they need to scan their retina or fingerprint before being allowed into the building.

Authentication happens in two stages, the first one is when you provide the correct login information, and the second one is when the website verifies that it is you. For example, if you have a Gmail account, you will use the email address and password to access your emails. Google verifies that it is you who is accessing the account with the device you are using. If you try logging in using a different device, you will receive a notification asking if you recently logged in to your account using a different device.

There are different types of logins that individuals or organizations use to secure their data or devices. They include operating system login, website login, app store login, FTP login, and router login. Operating system login is the password or passcode you use to access your laptop or PC.

The login can also be required when you want to install or uninstall certain files on the computer. Website logins are the username and password you need to access them. For example, financial institutions will require their customers to log in before they can access their accounts.

App stores such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store require you to create an account and log in before you can download mobile apps, music, and other files. FTP login is used to grant a user access to browse, send and receive files from an FTP server.

Router login refers to the credentials used by an administrator when they want to change a router’s settings. You have to decide which credentials you can use to secure your account. You can use numbers or letters or a combination of numbers and letters to create a strong PIN or password.

Authentication helps prevent unauthorized access, but, sometimes, it does not work. For example, if someone has your email address and the correct password, they can easily access your account. Two-factor authentication (2FA) offers an extra security check to ensure that the correct user gains access to an account.

For example, some financial institutions use two-factor authentication to verify customers who use online banking. When you log in to your account, the bank will send you a temporary code through your phone or email, which you can use to identify yourself. Therefore, if someone tries to log in to your account, they still have to verify themselves using the second temporary credentials.

In cyber security, authentication is very important, especially for organizations that store large amounts of data belonging to millions of people. Organizations have to keep their networks secure by permitting only authenticated users to access their computer systems, networks, database, and websites. Cyber criminals are always looking to gain access to sensitive information which they can use to commit crimes or ask for ransom. A good security system will always ensure that no unauthorized user gains access to the network or database.

What Is the Difference Between Authentication and Authorization?

Data protection in any organization involves giving access only to the right person. In an organization, not every employee has access to certain information; hence, the need for authentication and authorization. If you are interested in data protection, you might be wondering if authentication and authorization are the same or different. 

Authentication is a way to confirm that the correct user is accessing a database or network, while authorization ensures the correct user has access to the database or network. There are several ways to authenticate a user, such as passwords, PINs, temporary codes, and biometrics.

Authorization uses specific settings to allow an authentic user to access certain parts of a database or network. As a user, you might be allowed to change your authentication methods, but you do not have any power to change them in the authorization. Authorization can be partial or full once you get authentication; for example, you will have access to a specific file, but you cannot download or alter its contents.

Authentication and authorization seem like the same thing, but they are different steps in the login process. Authentication is a method of ensuring the right user gains access to a specific network or database. There are several authorization factors that organizations are using to authenticate users. These factors include the knowledge factor, possession, inherence, location, and time factors.

Knowledge factor refers to something you know, for example, your password, username, or PIN. If you do not know your username or password, the website you are trying to log into cannot authenticate if you are a genuine user. The possession factor refers to something you have. For example, when you try to log in to your account, you will receive a code on your phone, which you can use to confirm your identity before you proceed.

Inherence factor refers to something you are and is based on biometrics. There are electronic devices such as smartphones that allow you to unlock them using your finger or thumbprint. Location factor uses your location to authenticate your identity.

For example, if you are used to logging in to your work email address at a specific location, the network will block any attempts to log in to the work email in a remote location. The time factor is a supplemental mechanism that helps prevent unauthorized users from logging in when the resource is unavailable to the authorized user.

On the other hand, authorization is the process of giving a specific user permission to access a specific resource or function. It is also referred to as access control or client privilege. Examples of common authorization include giving someone permission to download a particular file on a server or giving a user administrative access to an application or database. The authorization follows authentication because the user must provide their genuine credentials before the administrator can grant them access to the requested resources.

Authorization is very important because it helps prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong person’s hands. Depending on the type of database or network and organization, the employees will be given authentication details. The administrator of the system will determine which employees get authorized and which ones do not.

There are three approaches to authorization that organizations can choose depending on their data security needs. These approaches include Token-based authorization, Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), and Access Control Lists (ACL).

Token-based authorization is when users are given a token that stipulates the privileges they will get and what data they can access. Each user gets a unique access token which they can use the entire time the token is active.

The user does not have to enter login credentials every time they need access to the resource. However, token-based authorization functions like a stamped ticket. As soon as the user logs out or quits the application or website, the access token becomes invalid.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is where the administrator will grant access to the users depending on their roles within the organization. This means that users can only access specific data to carry out their roles within the organization effectively. Access to certain information will depend on authority, responsibility, and competency. Access can also be limited to viewing a file but restricted to creating new ones or modifying existing files.

Access Control Lists (ACL) will specify which users have access to specific resources.  An Access Control List (ACL) will have a table that directs a computer operating system that accesses rights each user has to a particular system object. For example, if a user wants to access a specific file or folder in a database, their username or details need to be in the ACL to access that file or folder. The system’s administrator will keep updating the ACL to ensure that only the authorized users maintain access.

A user may have the power to change their authentication while a user does not have any power to determine their authorization. A user can change the PIN or password of their email address at any time. A user can also choose to use either single-factor authentication, two-factor authentication, or multi-factor authentication.

For example, if you want to log in to your email address on different devices, you can opt out of the option where your email service provider has to send a code before you can proceed to access your messages.

As a user, you do not have any say on the type of authorization you can get from the administrator. The administrator can decide to give you full authorization or partial authorization. Authorization is very important, especially for organizations that change employees often. Once an employee is fired or quits, their authorization is revoked, and they cannot regain access without permission from the administrator.

Wrap Up

Many times, authentication and login have been used in conjunction with each other, but they have different concepts and meanings. Login involves the credentials one uses to gain access, while authentication is used to prove those credentials belong to that user. Both concepts are important in cyber security because they grant access to a system, database, or network.

Authorization works together with authentication to grant a user access to a specific system, database, or network. A user might have the right credentials to log in to a website but lack the authority to upload or download content. It is very important to realize that each access point is a potential intrusion point.

Therefore, authorization allows an administrator to give the right to access a user after authentication. If an organization wants to reduce the chances of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands, authentication and authorization are the correct way to avoid unnecessary intrusions.

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