7 Types of User Authentication for Stronger Network Security By Shibu Paul, Vice President – International Sales at Array Networks BIO.

7 Types of User Authentication for Stronger Network Security

Shibu Paul, Vice President – International Sales at Array Networks BIO. | Friday, 07 July 2023, 06:04 IST

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With 25 years of experience in IT, IS, and telecom, Shibu Paul is an expert in digital transformation. His skill sets include pre-sales, managed services, key account management, business alliances, cloud computing, and more. In his current role at Array, he plays a vital part in developing end-to-end operations, building a strong channel, and ensuring reliable support infrastructure in the region.

2022 saw a 38% spike in cyberattacks compared to 2021 and recorded 1,168 weekly attacks. As technology matures and becomes a prominent part of our lives, hackers, too, get smarter with their attack mechanisms. It’s seen that hackers can infiltrate up to 93% of the organization’s networks.

Therefore, the importance of authentication cannot be overstated here. Authentication methods act as gate keeps protecting your digital assets, networks, and, most importantly—your employees and clients from catastrophic attacks such as identity theft, data breaches, and financial fraud.

This article sheds light on top authentications method to enable enterprises to make an informed decision when selecting an authentication method that meets their unique requirements.

What do enterprises need for user authentication?

Authentication, in simple terms, is the process of verifying the identity of a user. It is an essential security measure that helps to protect systems and data from unauthorized access. User authentication adds a layer of security, protecting sensitive and confidential information. A lack of authentication protocols can enable outside invaders to conveniently steal sensitive information and increase the risk of insider threats and a loss of proprietary information and trade secrets. It is seen that 60% of data breaches are caused by insider threats.

By enabling adequate user authentication measurements, organizations can allow authorized users to access information readily while keeping hackers and threat actors at bay.

Here are 7 types of user authentication that enterprises can deploy.

Types of User Authentication

Authentication methods are essential for network security. However, an adequate authentication type should also be comfortable for users and frictionless to promote adoption. In general, there are three types of authentication: knowledge-based (passwords, security questions, or passphrases); possession-based (token, certificate, and hardware tokens); and inherence-based (face scans, biometrics, or fingerprints. Here’s more detail on each of these authentication types:

Password-based authentication

Used as one of the most common and prevailing forms of user authentication, password base authentication employs a password or a PIN. The password comprises letters, numbers, and special characters and is set up to match your credentials for accessing the system online.

However, due to its ease of use, users often use one password across multiple accounts, creating a security loophole. Around 54% of employees globally reuse their passwords across diversified work accounts.

The hackers can guess user credentials by systematically trying numerous combinations until they discover the correct one. Therefore, having a complex password is imperative as it reinforces your account security to a greater extent.

Companies can set up certain norms or password policies that confine password reuse or may require updating passwords frequently.

Two-Factor or Multi-factor Authentication

Adding a layer to security, MFA makes it harder for hackers to break in. This authentication type necessitates two or more individual methods for user identification. Its instances include smartphone-generated codes, fingerprints, Captcha tests, facial recognition, and voice biometrics. MFA factors mainly encompass the second factor from a diverse channel from the primary/original device to alleviate interception attacks.

However, it can also create friction for users and stretch the time it takes to access the account.

Biometric authentication

It verifies individuals within seconds as per their respective biological characters. Biometric authentication saves the authentic user data, which is matched with the physical traits of the user and offers an unparalleled level of security while preventing friction.

In 2020, over 80% of active phones in Asia Pacific, Western Europe, and North America implemented biometric authentication systems. These are the varied forms of biometric authentication.

Face Recognition: It matches the individual’s facial characteristics with approved ones from the data for granting access to the system.

Fingerprint Scanner: It matches the unique patterns, including the vascular patterns present in the fingers of the user.

Voice Recognition: It assesses the user’s speech patterns and formulates specific sound and shape traits to authenticate users based on standardized words.

Eye Scanner: It comprises technologies such as retina or iris scanners. They position a bright light targeted to the user’s eye and analyze distinctive patterns present in the colored ring surrounding the eye pupil. These patterns are compared with the ones existing in the database.

FIDO (Fast Identity Online) is an underlying technology that enables passwordless authentication. It is a set of open authentication standards designed to replace passwords with more secure and convenient authentication methods. FIDO authentication standards define how devices and servers interact to authenticate users. This ensures passwordless authentication is secure and interoperable across different devices and platforms. This makes it more secure and convenient than conventional passwords, is a widely adopted method, and supports an array of devices.

Certificate-Based Authentication

This method relies on a digital certification to verify a user before granting access to any resource. This solution can be implemented on end-to-end users, machines, and mobile devices.

Most solutions for certificate-based authentication arrive with cloud-based management systems. It makes it easier for administrators to streamline, regulate, and issue new certificates to their workforce.

While it’s a robust authentication method, the biggest loophole of certificate-based authentication is the theft of passwords. If someone gains access to authorized users’ workstations or passwords, they can easily break into their accounts. Moreover, it can be a time-consuming and costly process.

Single sign-on

SSO allows an individual within the enterprise to utilize a single set of unique credentials for assessing multiple websites or applications. The user must have an account with any identity provider (IdP). It conveys the website or application through cookies and tokens regarding user verification.

If the user has recently verified the IdP, it eliminates the need to log in every time to each account for accessibility.

Token-Based Authentication

Token-based authentication uses a token, also known as a security token, to verify a user’s identity. A token is a small, electronic device that generates a unique code, often called a one-time password (OTP), or prompts challenge-response, which the user enters when logging in.

Token-based authentication offers higher security as compared to traditional password-based authentication, as tokens are not stored on the user’s device. Additionally, tokens are typically only valid for a short period of time, which makes them less vulnerable to replay attacks.

Passwordless authentication

This type of authentication can include a variety of methods, such as biometrics such as fingerprints or facial recognition, hardware tokens, or one-time codes transmitted via email or SMS. Passwordless authentication is a cost-effective solution for enterprises, advancing modern security practices and optimizing user convenience.

It’s the best of all worlds: it’s more resistant to password thefts, doesn’t require frequent password changes, offers a frictionless user experience, and is immune to cyberattacks, including brute force, keyloggers, and man-in-the-middle. A study shows that 54% of respondents have switched to passwordless authentication.

Final words

Authentication is vital to protect confidential and sensitive information. However, most authentication types can be overwhelming as they require users to use complicated passwords, follow through multiple layers of authentication, and create friction in the login process. These challenges often compel users to employ simple passwords that threat actors can easily hack.Therefore, passwordless authentication offers convenience and shields enterprises against advanced and sophisticated cyber threats.

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