In the digital world, authentication is used by a server or client when they need to know who exactly is accessing information. In authentication, the user who is requesting information has to prove their identity to the client or server. Authentication is often confused with authorization. Authorization is when the server tries to determine if a client has access to a particular resource or a file. But all types of authorization generally require some kind of authentication. So, in short, authentication is about the “who” and authorization is about the “what”. Also authentication does not determine what the person can do or what files or resources the person can access. It simply provides a means of verification of identity. 

Why is user authentication important?

User authentication is important because it:

  1. Assigns each user a distinct identity

It helps to set apart a user from another, and help provide each user a separate identity on the platform.

  1. Helps test the robustness of cybersecurity

The process of authentication, depending on how robust and strong the method is, helps to test the network for any vulnerabilities. With repeated penetration testing, the strength of the network can be improved.

  1. Stores information about access attempt

The time for the attempted access and the number of access attempts made can be stored to track and analyze if that was a hack or not and assess vulnerabilities in the system.

  1. Helps in the authorization process

Authentication helps with the authorization process that follows it. In fact, authorization that ensures all the data is exposed in a safe manner would not be possible without proper authentication.

  1. Serves as a proof of identity that is legally accepted

Though the legal acceptance depends on the type of authentication, most of the different types of authentication accepted worldwide are legal also. 

Factors for the different types of Authentication

The types of authentication are based on different factors. These factors determine how the authentication happens. The different factors are: 

Knowledge factors

These types of authentication are based on whether the user is able to recall some kind of information prior to being authenticated. The type of authentication that comes under this category are (1) pin, (2) password, (3) image or pattern. It could be a combination of different authentication methods that provides the user access or a single one by itself.  

Possession factors

If anything must be in the possession of the user so that he/she be granted access, then the authentication type uses the possession factor. Common examples are tokens such as Magic Link, key fobs, one-time passwords, and ID cards.  

Inheritance factors

These types of authentication rely on the biological characteristics of the person. Examples of such types of authentication are retina scans, fingerprints, and face recognition.

The different types of authentication

Password-based authentication

Password-based authentication relies on a username/password combination for every user on the platform. The user has to input both username and the corresponding key/password when they access the platform. This is a test of recall and therefore uses the knowledge factor. He is allowed a certain number of tries, in most cases three, before the system deactivates the account. At times, there will be an additional layer of security with another type of authentication to make it hacker-proof. Examples are one-time passwords or even a fingerprint or face recognition.

Biometric authentication

Biometric authentication uses a part of your biological makeup to identify you. It uses the inheritance factor explained earlier. Examples of biometric authentication are iris scan, face recognition, fingerprint etc. There are many instances where people have been able to get past biometric authentication. The problem here is that biometric also eventually relies on the final image presented to the AI. If the image is forged then it can lead to a breach of security. Examples are forged fingerprints and 2D static and dynamic attacks in face recognition. But there is a way to prevent this. In fingerprint scans the temperature of the fingerprint is also noted to endure that it is a live subject. When it comes to face recognition, which is much more secure, given recent advancements, there is active and passive liveness check. These checks also ensure that it is a live human subject that is presenting the face for identification. 

Certificate based authentication 

Certificate-based authentication is a cryptographic technique that allows a computer on a network to authenticate itself using a public key certificate. This authentication type uses the possession factor discussed earlier. Digital certificates are trusted components of the PKI (Public Key Infrastructure) and serve as ID cards in the digital world, each being unique. The reason they are trusted so much is because they are issued by a trusted, third party CA (certificate authority) and are provided to only those users who validate their identity. To summarize, one can view PKI and digital certificates as a cryptographic means of achieving secure communication over the internet.

Other authentication methods

Some other authentication methods that do not fall under the knowledge, possession, or inheritance factors are:

Captcha: The humble, and yet not so humble, and sometimes frustrating humble captcha. The captcha presents a simple image to check for robots in the signing up or login process on a website. It of course allows you to go in for an audio if you are visually challenged. The images are dynamic, skewed to make it difficult for computer vision to grasp its content, and sometimes have lines and other markings etched around letters or numbers to confuse the AI.

Transaction authentication: In transaction authentication, the computer checks the user’s history. If the user commonly buys from the US, then all seems okay if the IP also is from the US. But at a later date, if the IP is present in another country, then an alarm is raised with a message that a change in location has been detected. Then more steps in verification are presented to the user. Transaction authentication cannot stand by itself. It is often used with other types of authentication such as password or pin-based authentication.  

Is there a most secure method of authentication?

There can be several answers to this question depending on the application and the capabilities of the system. But if there is a system capable enough to administer it, then biometric authentication ranks as the most secure authentication method. Amongst these both the iris and fingerprint scans are easier to hack and are more susceptible to attacks than face recognition. Face recognition also has the added advantage of being more common. Government ID proofs ranging from a driver’s license to a passport requires a clear and easily distinguishable photograph. This means that there already exists a database with photos of almost  every individual, making face authentication easy to realize during customer onboarding. It will take less time to implement than iris or fingerprint scan (which would require special hardware at the customer end).

Authentication services from HyperVerge

HyperVerge offers identity verification services that are deployed by companies for use cases in Crypto, FinTech, and Gaming. HyperVerge is a global leader in face recognition and optical character recognition. With the errors nearly halved from what it was last year, it ranked 7th globally on the NIST FRVT 1:1, the face recognition gold standard from NIST. HyperVerge was also ranked 2nd globally in the Border Images Benchmark of the NIST FRVT 1:1, and this is one of the most difficult benchmarks on the NIST leaderboard, especially due to the presence of faces in a number of poses and each with differing quality. The authentication services provided by HyperVerge are trusted by government and corporate entities worldwide for their accuracy and speed.

Closing words

Authentication is limited by technology and advances with it. There could be novel forms of authentication that would trump face authentication. We are talking about possible DNA-based authentication, but as things stand today, face authentication is the most secure form of authentication that is also the most practical and easy to implement. If you want to make customer onboarding easier or are worried about AML (anti-money laundering) compliance, let us help you achieve it with our very robust, NIST-certified face recognition systems. To know more, talk to us today! 


Which is the strongest type of authentication?

The strongest authentication types are biometric-based. Of these the strongest, most commonly used, and the one least susceptible to hacks is face recognition.

What is the fastest authentication method?

The fastest authentication is the “fast authentication” method which uses a combination of web authentication and binding authentication by allowing the user to access a page without typing in a username and password.

What are the most commonly used protocols for authentication?

Authentication protocols ensure secure user access. Kerberos and SSL/TLS are the most commonly used protocols for authentication. Both of them are based on issuing security certificates but Kerberos uses a temporary certificate called a ticket, whereas SSL/TLS uses a method of mutual authentication for connection between client and server.

What are the problems with OTP-based authentication?

OTP-based authentication is susceptible to attacks from out of band networks if the network on your mobile is not end-to-end encrypted. OTPs are also inconvenient to use as there is a change in UI and the user has to manually copy the OTP and enter it.