9 Different Types of Authentication to Secure Networks

verification code two factor authentication 2fa

9 Different Types of Authentication to Secure Networks

Authentication is essential to network security, ensuring only authorized users gain access to sensitive information and resources. There are various authentication methods available, each offering its own advantages and disadvantages. Some rely on something the user knows themselves, such as passwords or PIN numbers, for instance.

Others use something the user owns, like a smart card or security token, while some methods combine both aspects for extra protection. Selecting an authentication method carefully is crucial to ensure a safe network and the protection of sensitive information.

Let’s delve deeper into each type of authentication in order to appreciate how it can help protect our networks fully.

Single-Factor Authentication

Single-factor authentication (SFA) is an approach to network security that requires only a single type of authentication factor to gain entry. This is in contrast with multi-factor authentication, which requires multiple forms of authentication to gain entry to a network.

SFA often takes the form of password entry: users enter their password when accessing their network, and if it matches that stored on it, access is granted. While this method is easy and efficient to use, it is also relatively insecure as passwords can easily be forgotten, guessed, or broken into, making single-factor authentication an unreliable way of safeguarding sensitive data.

Utilizing a security token such as a smart card or USB key provides another form of single-factor authentication. Users inserting their token into the computer will have it verified before being granted access by the network. Although more secure than using passwords alone, relying solely on one factor leaves your network vulnerable if it becomes lost or stolen, even with two factors of protection.

Single-factor authentication should only be employed in situations with minimal risk, where any unauthorized access could have minimal repercussions. For instance, it might make sense for a website that provides public information, but not on networks that store confidential data.

largest cybersecurity companies
Single-factor authentication uses a password to grant access.


Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an extra layer of protection to networks or systems by requiring both something you know (like your password) and something physical (such as your smartphone) from users to verify their identities. It makes it harder for an attacker to gain entry.

When users log into networks or systems, they first enter their username and password before the system sends a unique code directly to their phone for entry to complete the login process. Since this code only remains valid for a limited period of time, even if an attacker intercepts it, they won’t be able to exploit it effectively.

There are various types of two-factor authentication (2FA), such as SMS-based two-factor authentication that sends out codes via text messages or app-based two-factor authentication that generates them through smartphone apps. Some systems use hardware tokens for 2FA while others rely on biometric authentication such as fingerprint or facial recognition as their second factor of protection.

2FA makes it much harder for attackers to gain entry to networks or systems even if they know a user’s password. This is while also alerting the user when attempts are being made at login, as they will receive a notification as soon as the code arrives in their phone.

Apple iPhone XS screen with two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication involves a secondary form of identification after entering your login information.

©Cristian Dina/Shutterstock.com

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication uses individuals’ physical or behavioral characteristics to authenticate them as humans. This technology has become increasingly prevalent for network security because it offers a safer, easier way to access systems than passwords or security tokens.

Biometric authentication starts by collecting an individual’s unique physical or behavioral characteristics. This may include fingerprints, facial recognition, iris scans, voice recognition, or signatures, before turning this data into digital templates and storing them securely.

When someone attempts to gain entry to a network, the system compares their biometric data with that stored as part of a template to determine if they match. If they do match, access is granted. Otherwise, access is denied.

One of the key advantages of biometric authentication is its deceptively difficult forgery. While passwords may be readily stolen or guessed, biometric traits are unique to each person and cannot be misplaced or forgotten. This makes biometric authentication significantly more secure than traditional methods.

Biometric authentication offers many other advantages, too, including convenience. No password needs to be remembered or carried. All one needs is their body to access networks, making biometrics a more user-friendly solution.

However, biometric authentication should not be taken for granted as there remains the possibility that biometric data could be stolen or compromised in some way. Therefore, it is also imperative that systems used for biometric authentication are adequately secured against unauthorized access.

face recognition search engine
Biometric authentication uses things like your unique face mapping, fingerprint, or other biometrics to gain you entry.

©Blue Planet Studio/Shutterstock.com

Multifactor Authentication

Multifactor authentication provides additional protection to protect sensitive information and networks. Users must present multiple pieces of evidence or factors before being granted access to a network or system.

The first factor is usually something the user knows, such as a password or PIN. The second and third factors typically involve what the user possesses, such as smartcards, security tokens, or a phone. Similarly, third factors may involve something physical such as fingerprints, faces, or voices to authenticate a person further.

Multifactor authentication makes it more difficult for an attacker to gain entry to your network or system even if they obtain your password or first factor. This is because they would also need access to second and third factors that they likely would not possess.

Multifactor authentication is used in situations in which security breaches could have severe repercussions, such as in banking, healthcare, and the government. It’s also widely utilized to safeguard access to cloud services, VPNs, and remote access systems.

Organizations often employ multifactor authentication using both hardware and software solutions. For instance, they might combine smartcard reader/smartcard pairings for second-factor authentication with biometric software for third-factor verification.

Multifactor authentication sends you through three or more rounds of authentication.



CAPTCHAs are an authentication method used to protect networks against automated attacks. This distinguishes human input from that of machines and helps prevent bots from accessing restricted areas.

They typically consist of distorted letters and numbers, difficult for computers to read but easy for humans to decipher. Users must enter the correct characters to verify they are not robots.

CAPTCHAs can play an essential role in network security. They can combat spam by stopping bots from automatically filling in forms or signing up for multiple accounts. CAPTCHAs can protect against brute force attacks where an attacker repeatedly tries to guess passwords by requiring users to solve a CAPTCHA before entering their credentials.

Text-based, audio, and visual CAPTCHAs come in various forms. Text-based CAPTCHAs require users to type a set of characters that appear in an image while audio CAPTCHAs provide audio versions of these same characters for users who are visually impaired. Visual CAPTCHAs present users with images and ask them to select all images that fit a certain description, such as “select all images with cars.”

CAPTCHAs may be effective at protecting against automated attacks, but they can also be an annoyance for users. Solving CAPTCHAs takes time and effort, with some users having difficulty reading distorted characters or understanding audio instructions. Some websites utilize alternative authentication methods like two-factor or biometric authentication to address these concerns.

group email gmail
CAPTCHA is one way to test for bots.


Transaction Authentication

Transaction authentication is verifying the identity of users or devices before providing access to a network or completing transactions. This ensures that only authorized individuals or devices can gain entry or complete transactions. It aims to ensure that only approved individuals or devices access networks or make transactions.

Transaction authentication often requires multiple pieces of information for identification. They include username and password combinations, security tokens, and biometric factors such as fingerprint or facial recognition sensors or combinations thereof.

As soon as a user or device provides this information, the network checks it against a database of authorized users and devices. If it matches, access is granted or transactions are complete. Otherwise, access is denied, and a security administrator is alerted.

Transaction authentication can either be conducted in real-time or with one-time codes. Real-time authentication occurs each time the user or device accesses the network or completes a transaction. One-time codes provide temporary codes that expire after being used only once.

Transaction authentication is crucial in protecting networks and transactions from unauthorized access and fraud. By verifying users and devices, transaction authentication helps ensure sensitive data remains safe from access by unapproved individuals or devices.

transaction authentication woman holding credit card and phone purchase
Transaction authentication is used to verify your identity or your device’s authorization.


Certificate Authentication

Certificate authentication is an authentication technique used for secure communication across networks. It utilizes digital certificates to authenticate both clients and servers.

When communicating with a server, clients typically send a request first and receive its digital certificate, which contains information on its identity and public key. Clients then verify the certificate’s validity using a trusted third-party known as a certificate authority (CA). If the CA verifies its validity, clients use their public key from the server to encrypt and send their message directly.

The server then decrypts its private key, verifying that only its intended recipient can read the message. This helps prevent eavesdropping or tampering of sensitive information.

Certificate authentication also offers non-repudiation capabilities. It allows clients to send messages with no doubt of being read since no one can deny messages encrypted using a server’s public key.

Certificate authentication can be utilized in numerous applications, including secure web browsing, email communication, virtual private networks (VPNs), and file transfers. Organizations often utilize this process to protect their networks and protect confidential data.

certificate authentication online certification
Certificate authentication involves the use of digital certificates.


Token Authentication

Token authentication is a method of authenticating users that employs unique identifiers called tokens to secure access to networks or systems. A token represents the user’s authorization to access resources or services and they are generated by servers after users log in successfully, then are sent back out with each request made against resources or services in order for servers to verify user identities and authorizations.

Token authentication offers several advantages over traditional username and password authentication methods. Tokens provide greater security because they’re generated dynamically, making it simple to revoke them if a device is lost or stolen. In addition, tokens help users stay more organized as only one log-in session is necessary to receive one token, offering greater user convenience as they only need to remember one set of credentials instead of multiple. This reduces risk while improving the experience.

Token authentication can also be used to enforce different levels of access control. Different tokens can be assigned various levels of access, enabling administrators to manage who can gain access to sensitive resources. In addition, tokens can be time-limited, so they only grant access for a short amount of time, making tokens perfect for short-term projects or users needing temporary access to a system.

Token authentication is a prevalent technique used in modern web and mobile apps to provide users with a safe, convenient method for accessing their accounts. API-based systems also rely on token authentication as it facilitates secure communication among different systems as they exchange data with one another.

token authentication two factor
Token authentication uses tokens, which are unique identifiers, to verify your identity.

©Fabio Principe/Shutterstock.com

Computer Recognition Authentication

Computer recognition authentication (CRA) protects computer networks by authenticating users by their computer’s unique characteristics, including IP address, MAC address, and hardware specs. This form of verification uses this information about each computer to validate who is trying to gain entry to the network.

Administrators begin computer recognition authentication by compiling a list of approved computers with their identifying details. When users log into a network, their computer is checked against this list; if it matches an entry on it, access is granted to that user.

Computer recognition authentication provides an extra layer of protection beyond traditional username and password authentication. Even if an attacker knows their valid login details, they can only gain entry if their computer falls under a list of approved devices.

Computer recognition authentication offers administrators another advantage; it can be automated, making managing access easier for users while eliminating the need to remember and enter passwords each time they log into a network. Additionally, this type of authentication eliminates password remembrance for those entering.

network security data encryption
Computer Recognition Authentication protects networks by verifying computer-specific characteristics.


9 Different Types of Authentication to Secure Networks FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between password-based and multi-factor authentication?

Password-based authentication relies on a single factor, usually a password or passphrase, to verify a user’s identity. On the other hand, multi-factor authentication uses two or more factors to enhance security, such as a password and a fingerprint or a password and a security token.

Is biometric authentication more secure than password-based authentication?

Biometric authentication can be more secure than password-based authentication, as biometric data, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, is unique to an individual and cannot be easily lost, forgotten, or manipulated like a password can.

What are the advantages of certificate-based authentication?

Certificate-based authentication provides a secure and efficient method for verifying a user’s identity, as it relies on digital certificates issued by trusted third-party organizations. This can improve security and reduce the risk of fraud.

Can multi-factor authentication be bypassed?

While multi-factor authentication provides higher security than single-factor authentication, it is not foolproof and can be bypassed. For example, if a user’s device is compromised or if the second factor is intercepted, the authentication process can be bypassed.

Is biometric authentication reliable?

The reliability of biometric authentication can vary depending on the technology used and the quality of the sensors. For example, facial recognition can be unreliable if a user wears glasses or has a change in their appearance, while fingerprint recognition can be unreliable if a user’s fingerprints are worn or damaged.

Can password-based authentication be made more secure?

Password-based authentication can be made more secure by implementing best practices such as using strong and unique passwords, regularly changing passwords, and using multi-factor authentication in combination with passwords. Using a password manager can also help ensure that passwords are stored securely.

To top