Business woman hand using computer with padlock security

What Is the Difference Between Authentication and Authorization?

Although they are closely related, authentication and authorization are two essential elements of identity security that perform different functions.

Authentication and permission are crucial in the context of identity security. In order to prevent impersonation and unauthorized access, strong authentication measures are necessary. Although authenticated users cannot access or edit data unless they have explicit permission to do so (e.g. privileged access) adequate authorization restrictions ensure this. Together, the two ideas form a solid framework for controlling and securing access to digital resources.

Let us explore the difference between authentication vs authorization:

What is authorization

The process of providing or refusing access to particular resources or permissions, on the other hand, occurs after successful authentication. The system must establish what you are permitted to do or access once it has verified your identity. For instance, the users who can read, write, and delete particular files in a file system are determined by the permission rules. Thus, authorization ensures users have only the access they require and nothing more, upholding the principle of least privilege.

What is authentication

Verifying a user, device, or system’s identity through authentication. Usually, it entails verifying login information such as user names and passwords. For instance, your email service verifies your identity when you input your username and password to access an email account. The act of authentication attests to your identity. Multiple elements, such as something you know (like a password), something you have (like a physical token or smartphone), and something you are (like a fingerprint or other biometric data), may be required for more secure kinds of authentication.

Where do passwords fit?

The two techniques of confirming a user’s identity, password authentication and passwordless authentication, operate differently.

1.  Password authentication

A user is prompted for both a password and a username (or email) while using password authentication. A user selects a password that is connected to their username or email address when they first register for or set up an account. The servers of the system securely store this data.

The user enters their username and password when trying to log in. After that, the system verifies the supplied password to the one it already has on file. The user is authenticated and given access if they match. Access is refused if they don’t line up.

Because of its simplicity and convenience, this technique of authentication is commonly utilized. It does, however, pose substantial security threats. If a password is weak or reused across several sites, attackers can quickly guess or crack it. Passwords are easily hacked, especially because many accounts use the same type of keywords.

One way to prevent password theft is using password generators. Many password vaults solutions have an integrated generator that provides highly secure and unique passwords.

2.  Passwordless authentication

In contrast, passwordless authentication eliminates the requirement for users to remember or enter passwords. It instead employs various means to validate a user’s identity. Biometrics (such as fingerprint scans or facial recognition), hardware tokens, or temporary codes transmitted through email or SMS are examples of these systems.

A typical technique of passwordless authentication, for example, is to send a temporary code or link to the user’s registered email address or phone number. After that, the user inputs the code or clicks the link to confirm their identity and log in.

Passwordless authentication offers various security benefits. It reduces the hazards associated with weak or reused passwords and is impervious to standard techniques of password theft. It can also improve user experience because users no longer need to memorize complex passwords. It does, however, need users to have access to their email account or phone, and these methods are open to other types of attacks, such as SIM swapping or email account penetration.


Staff Correspondent at CPO Magazine