Although authentication and authorization sound quite similar, there are some differences between the two.
It is essential to know authentication vs. authorization comparison and how they protect the applications. This way, you will be able to secure sensitive data in a better way.
Both of these terms are associated with online security and are essential for offering top-notch experiences to the user.
- Authentication vs. Authorization: What They Actually Mean?
- What is Authentication?
- Multi-factor Authentication:
- What is Authorization?
- Types Of Access Control
- Difference Between Authorization and Authentication
- Authentication and Authorization in Microservices
- Authentication and Authorization Best Practices
Authentication vs. Authorization: What They Actually Mean?
These are the two security processes. Authentication offers confirmation of users.
On the other hand, the authorization gives permission to users so they may access resources.
Let’s have a detailed look at the two.
What is Authentication?
Authentication validates the user and confirms that he is actually what he claims to be. This is considered to be an initial step in security processes.
The authentication process usually completes through:
Username and Password:
They are the most common factors of authentication by which the user controls his identity and is then granted access to the system.
Here, the user is asked for an eye scan or fingerprints in order to have system access.
One time pin (OTP):
It offers aces for one session only.
Here the user is granted access by security code that an outside party generates.
The system might ask for some more verification to grant access to users. This is called multi-factor authentication.
In this authentication methods, the user has to provide two or more verification factors to have resource access.
This way, it offers strong protection and increased confidence in the organization that the data is saved from cyber attacks.
How MFA Works?
MFA asks for additional verification information from the user. OTP ( One time password) is a common MFA factor in which the user is asked to provide the 4 to 8 digit code that is sent via SMS or email.
MFA Authentication Methods
These include the things you know, i.e., your knowledge, the things you have, i.e., your possession, and what you are, i.e., inherence.
Let have a brief look at the three methods.
- Security question answers
- Software tokens
- Security keys
- Smart cards
- Facial recognition
- Retina scanning
What is Authorization?
This process of system security offers the user permission to some specific resources. It can also be referred to as access control.
Giving users administrative access to software is an example of authorization.
Authorization usually follows authentication, i.e., the user is first asked to confirm their identity in order to have access to the resources.
Types Of Access Control
After the authentication process, the authorization of the user can be done in the following ways.
A. Mandatory Access Control
This involves making strict security policies for user access. The administrators control these policies, and individual users have no authority to edit them.
B. Role-Based Access
Here the permissions are assigned to groups based on some sets of actions. Users can only perform the actions that they are allowed to do.
C. Discretionary Access Control
Here the user that is given permission for accessing certain objects can also grant access to other users.
Difference Between Authorization and Authentication
The authentication verifies credentials while the authorization grants or denies access.
Authentication is done through OTP, password, biometrics, etc.
On the other hand, the authorization settings are set up by the security team.
Authentication is visible to the user, while authorization is not visible to the user.
Authentication data moves through the ID token. In contrast, the authorization data moves through access tokens.
Authentication and Authorization in Microservices
In a microservice architecture, we split an application into the various microservice process.
Each of these processes performs the business logic implementation of a module in the application.
This way, the application gets split, and the need arises to authenticate and authorize the microservices.
Here the microservices need to be tackled in a bit different way and not like those of the monolithic application.
The authentication comes first in the applications, and then comes the authorization.
If a user is authenticated successfully but fails to be authorized, then the request won’t proceed.
There are three approaches that you can use to implement authentication and authorization in microservices.
1. Local Authentication and Authorization
Here the microservice holds the responsibility of authentication and authorization.
This way, you can assign different authentication mechanisms for each microservice.
The code gets duplicated and thus becomes bulkier.
2. Global Authentication and Authorization
This is an all or nothing approach. If the service has authorization, then either everyone can access it, or none can access it at all.
It involves no code reposition, and thus the main focus of the code is on business logic.
It is quite difficult to grant a finer level of permission. Also, the microservice gets no control over user access.
3. Global Authentication and Authorization as Part of Microservice
Here you can make finer-grained permission, and the microservice gets some control over user access.
Each microservice controls its respective authorization, and thus you will not observe any network latency.
You, as a developer, need to make some more efforts on permission control.
Which One to Use?
The third one is better to use as global authentication is perfect for where the application has a common authentication mechanism.
Authentication and Authorization Best Practices
Authentication and authorization are quite tricky. This dark concrete needs some more attention. Some best practices that you can do for these important security processes are:
Enable role-based access, so everyone doesn’t have the same permission to access specific resources.
Make use of multi-step authentication and add more layers of security to your sensitive data.
While doing permission rule settings, including the maximum session length for each user group.
Authentication and authorization are two important security processes.
Although they sound similar, there are differences between the two.
Authentication refers to user validation, while authorization means permitting users to access certain resources.
By knowing the authentication vs. authorization differences, you can prevent security breaches in your organization and offer it the best protection.