Authentication vs Authorization: everything you wanted to know

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tldr: Authentication is the process of identifying a person or thing, while Authorization determines what resources that person or thing should be able to access. A computer system always Authenticates before it Authorizes.

Authentication and authorization are information security processes that administrators use to protect systems and information. Although the two terms sound similar, they play separate but equally vital roles in securing applications and data. Combined, they determine the security of a system. A secure solution consists of correctly configured authentication and authorization.

What is Authentication?

Authentication is a process that verifies that someone or something is whom they say they are. Technology systems typically use some form of authentication to secure access to an application or its data.

A common example of authentication is the combination of a username and password being required to access an online site or service. The username and password input by the user is authenticated when the system checks the database for an existing, matching entry.

Why is Software Authentication Useful?

Being able to reliably identify a user, a computer, or a system, plays a crucial role in pretty much any computer system that needs a database. Authentication protocols make it possible to create accounts on web apps, and implement roles and permissions on top of the identification system (aka authorization).

What is Authorization?

Authorization is the security process that determines a user or service's level of access. In technology, we use authorization to give users or services permission to access some data or perform a particular action.

An examination of personnel within a supermarket can help to understand authorization. In the supermarket, there is a cashier and a manager, both of whom have different responsibilities and permissions. The cashier may only be permitted to process payments, whereas the manager may have access to daily totals of payments. The manager is authorized to access daily totals, while the cashier is not.

Why is Software Authorization Important?

  • Improved security: It can be ensured that only permitted users get to access sensitive business software and documents.
  • Ease of control: Since every user or machine is authorized, it is easy to track and control the software.
  • User management: Enterprises can restrict the number of users by declining authorization. It can help the organization to cut down on unwanted use of the program.

Which comes first, Authentication or Authorization?

Authentication always precedes authorization. Authorization relies on the identification of the user to know what permissions to assign. If the system is unable to authenticate and identify the user, it cannot provide the correct level of access. Authentication provides the verified identity authorization needs to control access.

How is Software Authentication Ensured?

In authentication, the user or computer must prove its identity to the server or client. Usually, authentication by a server entails the use of a username and password. Other ways to authenticate can be through cards, retina scans, voice recognition, and fingerprints.

How is Software License Authorization Enforced?

Software license authorization can be achieved through a software license management tool, such as LicenseSpring. LicenseSpring allows software vendors to use feature modules to enable or disable certain modules, components, and extensions according to the license entitlements.

Learn more about which software license models can be implemented in your software application using LicenseSpring.