eMudhra Blog Authentication vs. Authorization

Authentication vs. Authorization: Know the Difference?

By eMudhra Editorial on March 18, 2023
Authentication vs. Authorization: Know the Difference?

The world is becoming digital. What we are witnessing today is the digital revolution and nonetheless to say it is an ongoing process. But as the world is getting more and more digitized, the impetus is shifting towards establishing trust in the digital ecosystem where identity, data, and transactions are secured. The principle governing the security of the digital landscape is authentication and authorization. While you might be already aware of the term and its radical popularization across industries, let us delve deeper into the difference between authentication and authorization.

Authentication and authorization are two critical concepts in securing the digital ecosystem that is often used interchangeably but has distinct differences. While authentication refers to the process of verifying the identity of a user, system, or device attempting to access a resource, authorization is the process of granting or denying access to a resource based on the authenticated identity and permissions.

Understanding the differences between authentication and authorization is crucial for designing effective security measures that protect sensitive data and assets from unauthorized access, cyber threat, and man-in-middle attacks. This article will explore the key differences between authentication and authorization, their role in digital security, and how they work together to ensure the integrity of the data and systems.

What is Authentication and What is its Purpose?

Authentication is simply defined as the act of validating a user, system, or device whom they claim to be. While traditionally, authentication involved only one layer of verification but as cyber threats are becoming sophisticated, multiple layers of authentication are the new norm of security. Authentication is typically accomplished through the application of usernames, passwords, biometric identifiers, or security tokens that are unique to users or devices. The primary goal of authentication is to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data and resources, thereby ensuring the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical information. Without a proper authentication system in place, enterprises can be subject to cyberattacks and other security breaches, which can result in significant financial losses, damage to reputation, and legal liability.

What is Authorization and What is its Role?

While digitization is changing the market landscape and conventional business operations by the blizzard, the need for a comprehensive security suite is more crucial than ever. Sole dependence on authenticating the user access for digital integrity is simply not enough. This is where the next step in securing the digital ecosystem comes to play; Authorization. It is the process of granting or denying access to a resource based on the authenticated identity and pre-defined permissions and role of the requester. The primary role of this step is to provide a centralized granular access and control system in enterprises, which rationalizes and limits access to sensitive data, applications, and other resources by preventing unauthorized access and misuse.

Authorization plays a critical role in enterprise security by ensuring that only authorized users and devices have access to resources. It is an essential component of access control, which is the practice of limiting access to a resource based on the principle of least privilege. Least privilege refers to granting users only the minimum level of access required to perform their job functions, reducing the risk of accidental or intentional damage to the system or data. Authorization mechanisms can be implemented at various levels, including the operating system, application, and database levels.

What is the Difference Between Authentication and Authorization?

Let us quickly summarise the differences between authentication and authorization:





The process of verifying the identity of a user or system trying to access a resource or system.

The process of granting or denying access to a resource or system based on the authenticated user's permissions.


To ensure that only authorized users or systems can access a particular resource or system.

To determine which resources a user can access and what actions they can perform within those resources.


To establish trust between the user and the system.

To protect resources from unauthorized access and maintain data privacy and security.


Password-based authentication, biometric authentication, multifactor authentication, digital certificates, and encryption.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), Rule-Based Access Control (RBAC), and Context-Based Access Control (CBAC).


Verifying the user's identity.

Determining what the user can access and what actions they can perform.

Key Considerations

Who is accessing the resource or system?

What resources can the user access, and what can they do within those resources?


Entering a password, scanning a fingerprint, or using a smart card.

A user is authorized to view a document but not edit it, or an administrator has full access to all resources in the system.

Types of Authentication

There are several types of authentication methods used to verify the identity of a user, system, or device attempting to access a resource. The most common types of authentication include:

  1. Password-based Authentication: This is the most widely used authentication method, where users are required to enter a username and password to access a resource. Password-based authentication is relatively simple to implement and use, but it is also susceptible to attacks such as password guessing and phishing.
  2. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): This authentication method mandates users to provide two or more forms of identification to access a resource. Identification factors may include facial recognition, biometrics, iris scans, PIN, OTP, and many more based on pre-defined security parameters. MFA is comparatively more secure than password-based authentication as it adds an extra layer of security, rendering it strenuous for attackers to gain access to a system or data.
  3. Biometric Authentication: It utilizes biometric data such as fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans to verify and validate the identity of a user. Biometric authentication is one of the most rigorous modes of authentication available as it is difficult to replicate or forge biometric data.
  4. Token-based Authentication: It involves the use of a physical device, such as a smart card or security token, to verify the identity of a user. The token generates a unique code that is entered as a password to access a resource.
  5. Certificate-based Authentication: This authentication method uses digital certificates to verify the identity of a user. Certificates are issued by a Trust Service Provider (TSP) and are used to validate a user's identity. An important point is to note that these digital certificates can only be issued by a TSP.

Types of Authorization

Once a user is authenticated, authorization controls are then applied to ensure users can access the data they need and perform specific functions such as adding or deleting information based on the permissions granted by the organization. While the permissions can be assigned at application, operating system, or infrastructure levels, the common types of authorization methods include Role-based access control, rule-based authorization, attribute-based authorization, and context-based authorization.

  1. Role-based access control (RBAC): It is a common authorization mechanism that defines permissions based on the user's job function or role. This simplifies the administration of access control policies and reduces the risk of human error. For example, an employee with a managerial role might have access to certain files that a regular employee does not.
  2. Rule-based authorization: It involves granting access based on a set of predefined rules. For example, a user might be granted access to a certain resource only if they meet a specific set of criteria, such as being in a certain location or accessing the resource during a specific time of the day.
  3. Attribute-based access control (ABAC): It involves granting access on a more granular level based on specific attributes of the user, such as their job title or department, user’s name, organization, ID, and security clearance. Attributes such as time of access, location of the data, and current organizational threat levels are also considered while giving access to the requester. Nonetheless, to say, it is a complex authorization process.

An example of ABAC implementation can include selective access to data within a department. For example, rather than allowing all HR managers in an organization to change employees’ HR data, access can be limited to certain geographical locations or hours of the day to maintain tight security limits.

In conclusion, authorization is a critical component of enterprise security, helping to control and limit access to sensitive data, applications, and other resources.

Contact us now to learn more about how eMudhra can help in Identity and Access Management Solutions for your organization. Kickstart your journey to improve cyber security compliance and access governance with us.

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