Internet is evolving. Businesses are shifting their focus to digitalize their operations. Along this change, demand for protecting personal data is rapidly expanding. So, to ensure the security of information, organizations are investing in implementing strong authentication systems. But having an authentication system alone is not enough to protect valuable and personal data. That’s why there are multiple types of authentication, some more secure than others.
It is often a challenge to implement such systems in a way to avoid data breaches that can cost companies their clients as well as huge losses from a financial perspective. Therefore, having a very well tested authentication system is not just an optional thing, it is a must.
Before we dive deep into the subject, let us introduce ourselves to the concept of authentication.
What is authentication?
Authentication is a methodology in which a system identifies the users requesting to access the services it provides. Users authenticate to the system using information they only know, such as their username and password. But authentication is not only limited to the method talked about before, it also comes in multiple forms: biometric authentication, multi-factor authentication, single-factor authentication and the list continues.
Now that we have a general idea about authentication and its types, let us go into detail about the most common ones and see what the benefits and drawbacks of each type are.
Single-Factor Authentication (SFA):
Primarily it is the most commonly used type of authentication. It requires the user to go through one step (in our case factor) to access the system he desires to. The flow is as follows: the user accesses the desired application; he is welcomed with a web page that prompts him to enter his login credentials (say username and password). If the user inserts them correctly, he is given complete access to the application. While this form of authentication is user friendly and very easy to use, it is also the least secure type of authentication. Single-Factor authenticated systems are relatively easy to bypass either by phishing attacks, keylogging (the act of recording keystrokes on a keyboard) or, in case the password is not a complex one, by mere guessing it.
If an application is implementing this type of authentication, it is highly recommended that it asks the user to use a strong password.
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):
Multi-Factor authentication is a system that uses multiple authentication methods to ensure application security, typically after entering your credentials. These methods include biometrics, code sending through SMS, device-based confirmation and more. You’ve probably used a multi-factor authentication system when you tried to login to a google service from a different computer and it prompted you to confirm the login from your android device. Even though this system prevents more than 80% of cyberattacks, for a lot of people, it is considered inconvenient. Besides the inconveniency, implementing such system is more expensive than the prior Single-Factor Authentication method. I personally consider that it is a well-made sacrifice at the end of the day.
Single Sign On (SSO):
Single Sign On is an authentication method that enables users to sign in into multiple applications using only one set of credentials. SSO is mainly used in enterprises and small organizations to ease the management of various user credentials. With a single login, a user can access any application the respective enterprise or organization offers. While this type of authentication is convenient for both parties, it comes with a big security risk. In case an attacker manages to gain access to a user’s SSO credentials, he will be granted access to different enterprise applications and respectively to confidential information. To avoid malicious access, SSO can be coupled with other authentication systems such as MFA (Multi Factor Authentication).
Unlike previously mentioned authentication systems, this type of authentication relies on unique biological characteristics of an individual to authenticate to an application. Typically, this method of authentication comes in pair with another method. For example, it can be used as another factor in multi factor authentication systems. One of its most common uses is within mobile banking applications, where it gives the user the option to login to his account using his preferred biometric method or to even let him pay using his mobile phone.
And now that you have a general idea about authentication systems, go ahead and choose what system best suits your application.
Devista – Your way into the future!