Difference Between Authentication vs Authorization

Difference Between Authentication vs Authorization

As companies continue to suffer one cyberattack after another, a need exists for them to take steps to improve their online services. Today, the difference between authentication and authorization is a common discussion in the information security space. While many people use the terms interchangeably, there are distinctions between them.

You probably have come across these terms when you want to access your online accounts. Now, you wish to learn more about them. Well, you are reading the right guide because we will explain everything you should know about the terms in a way that will not require you to do further reading. That said, we will start by defining the terms.

Definition of Authentication

Authentication is the process of verifying or validating a user’s identity or credentials before they are allowed access into a system. The process requires users to provide their login parameters (email address or username and password) before the person is fully allowed to access the system. This is a term associated with the web as a fundamental piece of service infrastructure. In modern technology, one- or two- or multiple-factor authentication exists.

Unlike one-factor authentication, two-factor and multiple-factor authentication require more than the regular username and password to access certain websites. For example, another requirement could be receiving a text with a verification code on a mobile phone.

By and large, this technique ensures that an unauthorized user does not have access to a system (online resources) because it allows for the login details to be verified. When discussing authorization vs authentication, you need to also understand what the former entails.

Definition of Authorization

Authorization is the term used to describe what happens when the system has verified and accepted the user’s identity. It means that the person is now free to access the services or enjoy the resources to the extent the person is allowed to.

Here, you are permitted to access databases, funds, remote locations, files, and other sensitive information. For instance, an employee can use his or her ID and password to access the company’s website.

However, authorization comes in when the system ascertains what information the employee ought to have access to. Another example is seen when a traveler goes through an airport. With the ticket and identity displayed, the person is allowed to proceed through the airport security protocol. However, a flight attendant will then authorize the passenger to have access to his or her seat and other resources.

Main Differences Between Authentication vs Authorization

At this juncture, we will go further to expand the discussion. The table below emphasizes the key distinctions between them.

Basis of ComparisonAuthenticationAuthorization   
MeaningConfirms a user’s identity before access to the system is fully grantedDetermines the particular resources or security level the user should have because his or her identity has been confirmed 
Which comes first? (Sequence)Is the first step of authorizationTakes places after the user has been authenticated
RequirementsRequires the login parameters of the user (such as employee’s ID or username and password) Requires the user’s privilege or security level 
 AnalogyIf a passenger of an airline goes to the airport to catch a flight, the airport security will confirm that he or she has a pass to board an airplane. However, there are many flights at the airport that the passenger can board. But flight A officials have to further confirm that the passenger has all the requirements to be on board flight A.
Simple termsDetermines who you areDetermines what you are permitted to do

Difference Between Authentication and Authorization: Conclusion  

We have come to the end of the discussion. No doubt, we have used easy-to-understand examples to explain the difference between authorization and authentication. Even though they are two different processes, we must state that they work hand in hand. In other words, system users must pass through the latter before proceeding to the former. The reason is that the system has been programmed to verify your identity before it determines what services or resources you are entitled to.

A company’s database may contain employees’ names, the files they can download, and other key resources. Once an employee keys in his or her details, authentication happens. For the system to determine the resources the employee ought to have access to, authorization will take place. Without a doubt, that analogy further simplifies the authentication and authorization tough dilemma.