Authentication and Authorization – What you need to know

The past two Tuesdays saw us covering the terms authentication and authorization on our TechTalkTuesday posts. While the terms may sound similar and can be easy to confuse with one another, they are two distinct parts of the user login process.  

If your business is to successfully implement an identity and access management (IAM) solution, it’s important to understand the distinctions between the two terms. 

This simple analogy may help. 

Consider the laptop you and your employees use for work. You need to enter the credentials provided to you by your IT department. These credentials will verify (authenticate) that you are who you say you are and will provide you with the approval (authorization) to log into the laptop. 

The system won’t allow you access if you have the incorrect credentials. Authorization is not possible without authentication. 

Authentication verifies your credentials. Authorization will grant or deny permission based upon the results of the authentication process.  

Authentication uses passwords, one-time pins, authentication apps, or biometrics to verify the user. Authorization uses settings that have been established by systems security teams.  

Authentication will allow users to access the work-related systems they need to do their job, if they provide the correct login credentials, based upon the authentication requirements selected by the business. Once granted access, authorization will provide users with access to the files and other data that they need in order to perform the functions of their job. 

It’s important that both authentication and authorization are utilized correctly as a part of IAM solutions. By understanding the facets of each, you will be in a better position to help protect your business against a data breach. You’ll also be enabling your workforce, whether in-office or remote, to be as productive as can be.  


Potential risks of poor authentication and authorization practices

There are a number of potential risks to be aware of if your business does not implement a healthy authentication and authorization process. Threat agents look to exploit vulnerabilities that exist in authentication processes. They quite often take the route of automated attacks that use tools sourced from the dark web. Once they have an idea of the vulnerabilities in the authentication process, they will be able to bypass or fake authentication. 

The impact on your organization can be quite significant. 

Once inside of your business systems, threat agents will be able to do whatever they want to do. Whether that is access financial information, personal details about patients or customers, or cause damage to your vulnerable systems. 

The theft of your business data could have far-reaching consequences for your employees and for your customers. The risk of a data breach can bring with it an increased risk for fraud and identity theft. Your business will also be at an increased risk of reputational damage.  


Are you looking for an authentication solution to help take your cybersecurity to the next level? Speak with one of our knowledgeable ZenKey professionals to discover how ZenKey can help.