User Authentication Methods To Improve Data Security
Different user authentication methods can help ensure the correct users have access to information or resources. Using an authentication method keeps unwanted users from accessing your network.
When unwanted users gain access to your sensitive data, they can steal information or cause other harm to your organization or company’s network.
This blog explores the different common user authentication methods in more depth and why you should call the best cybersecurity experts in the Bay Area.
Why User Authentication Is Essential
Having an authentication system in place provides an additional security layer for your business or organization. Authentication requires employees to verify their identity, further preventing unauthorized users from accessing information.
Most authentication methods also let you control privileges across your employees, ensuring certain employees can’t access more sensitive information. For example, most users won’t need to access financial accounts.
The Most Common User Authentication Methods
When choosing a common authentication method, authentication factors should include user experience alongside security. Let’s explore the six common authentication methods and when you should employ them.
Password Authentication Protocol
Password authentication is the most commonly used certificate-based method for authentication and requires a user inputting their username alongside a PIN code or password. Anyone with a computer or phone has likely used passwords.
While easy to implement, password authentication is also the easier method that hackers can abuse. Common issues with passwords and the user authentication experience include:
- Reused passwords
- Easy-to-guess passwords, such as passwords derived from publically available information
- Employees requiring a password for every device or application
Accounts with weak or reused passwords become vulnerable to brute force and phishing attacks. Companies should always have a password system in place. Protocols can include regularly changing passwords and making passwords more complex.
Two-Factor or Multifactor Authentication
Many operations call for password-based authentication due to convenience. Having a username and password is a quick way for an employee to log in to their desktop computer and begin working.
Two-factor authentication, or multifactor authentication, can help eliminate the common pitfalls of only having a username and password for operations. A common two-factor authentication is sending a one-time password to a user’s email or phone.
Out-of-band authentication involves the secondary factor being on a separate device or channel from the original device. This method further secures your network since hackers must have a separate set of digital certificates to access your information.
While two- or multi-factor authentication can make the user experience more difficult, the added security layer is worth it for most businesses or organizations.
Token-Based User Authentication Methods
Token procedures authenticate users by having them use a physical device, like their smartphone, smart card, or private key, to log in to their accounts. You can use the token-based authentication process by itself or alongside multiple user authentication methods.
Since attackers need direct access to the token authentication device, this method prevents most attacks. Employees must also track their tokens to prevent becoming locked out of their accounts.
Token-based procedures call for having an enrollment program in place should employees lose their physical tokens.
API Authentication Methods
Different API authentication methods exist, including:
- HTTP basic authentication. This method is straightforward, using an HTTP header by requiring a username and password. Common protocols apply, like regularly changing passwords.
- API access tokens. When several users require access, experts recommend using API access tokens. Each user has a unique API key, and you can use these keys for multiple applications.
- OAuth with OpenID. By using OAuth with OpenID, you can use a third-party authentication system for authenticating users. Among the popular protocols today, this combination is one of the most secure.
The most common user authentication methods include SSO. Using a single set of credentials, users can access several websites or applications. This method works by providing a user with an identity provider, negating the need to have a password.
This identity provider then signals to the application or site if the user is verified via tokens or cookies. While this method eliminates needing a password, attackers can gain access to different accounts using one set of credentials should a data breach occur.
Biometric authentication can include authentication methods like:
- Facial recognition
- Fingerprint scanning
- Behavior biometrics (for example, how a person walks)
- Iris recognition
- Voice recognition
Compared to certificate-based authentication solutions, like passwords, biometric methods are more secure. However, older technology might not be able to use biometric authentication, or the types of authentication it uses aren’t secured.
Implementing these biometric network authentication methods also requires more upfront costs.
The Most Common Authentication Protocols
Even the most secure authentication method requires the correct protocols.
- Challenge-Handshake Authentication Protocol. This protocol method utilizes a challenge and response tool to re-authenticate a user during a single session. This protocol is much safer than the traditional password protocol.
- Lightweight Directory Access Protocol. This protocol verifies a user’s digital certificate via a directory service. It relies on a user’s stored data and cross-references their credentials with the network’s database.
- Extensible Authentication Protocol. For wireless network security, extensible authentication protocols can support numerous authentication and verification methods. This secure protocol method lets remote devices perform mutual authentication via built-in encryption.
- Security Assertion Markup Language. This open-source protocol relays information via XML documents signed between a service provider and an identity provider.
How Can I Choose The Best Authentication Methods?
Whether you need more secure authentication methods or want to strengthen your computer security in the near future, choosing the right approach is essential. The most common is using passwords, but they also have the least security.
A biometrically authenticated connection is often the strongest, but it doesn’t provide the most straightforward user management experience.
We’re Here To Help
At Renascence IT Consulting, our team brings over 20 years of computer and access management experience. We can help you choose the correct methods for your authentication server, user logs, financial accounts, and other essential information or applications.