Authentication vs. Authorisation: All You Need To Know

Authentication and authorisation are the two primary parts of the login process. Authentication verifies a user’s identity, while authorisation verifies a user’s access privileges.


What Is Authentication?

Authentication is the process of verifying a user’s identity. It initiates all security processes.

There are multiple authentication factors that can be used to verify a user’s identity online. They can be classified in three categories.

  • Something you know: this refers to information or secrets unique to a specific user, including usernames and passwords and PINs. When logging into a service, platform, or application, the user provides this information. If it is correct, the system grants access.
  • Something you have: this refers to a specific item a user has possession of, including physical tokens and OTPs. During the verification process, the user either enters the PIN or inserts the security token in the device to verify his/her identity.
  • Something you are: this refers to a unique identifying feature of the user. This factor is dependent on the user having the hardware capability to store and access biometric features so websites and service providers can activate biometric authentication, including fingerprint and facial scans as well as voice recognition.

Transaction confirmation is especially important for transactions that require the service provider or retailer to know, without a doubt, that the user has seen and agreed to certain information (e.g. proof of age verification etc.) and has provided consent for an action to be carried out (e.g. payment transactions).


mfa-enShould authentication require an added level of security, multiple factors can be requested to verify a user’s identity. This is called multi-factor authentication (MFA).

The most important reasons why you should also rely on MFA.


What Is Authorisation?

Authorisation, often also referred to as access control or client privilege, is the process of granting access permission to certain information or functionality. Authorisation only occurs once a user has proven his/her identity (i.e. completed an authentication process).

Companies can use authorisation to assign user roles and permissions so they can manage access protocols for authenticated users. That means only authorised users have access to specific data, apps, or information. This is a key tool for protecting sensitive data from unauthorised users.

Authorisation can also restrict customer access to certain features or benefits offered by a service provider. This is an ideal way to allocate access to purchased extras or restrict access to minors.

Authentication vs. Authorisation

Authentication and authorisation are two distinct parts of the login process. Considering the two in terms of CIAM/IAM, the former refers to identification (I), while the latter denotes access management (AM). After the authentication process occurs online, the authorisation process implements the predefined policies to allocate access privileges to users. In short:

  • Authentication verifies a user’s identity.
  • Authorisation verifies a user’s access privileges.

FAQ about Authentication and Authorisation

What Do Authentication and Authorisation Have To Do With Each Other?

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Authentication and authorisation are both important concepts in information security and access management.

How Can Authentication and Authorisation Be Briefly Explained?

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In summary, authentication is the process of determining whether a person or system really has the identity they claim, while authorisation is the process of determining what actions an authenticated user is allowed to perform.

How Can Human Errors in Authentication Be Minimised?

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Training and awareness: Training and raising user awareness of the importance of security and best practices related to authentication can help reduce human errors and vulnerabilities.

Can Authentication and Authorisation Procedures Be Used in Mobile Apps?

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Authentication and authorisation procedures can be used in mobile apps to ensure that only authorised users can access certain functions or data within the app. For example, a user can authenticate with a fingerprint or password and then only access certain data assigned to them based on their role or authorisation.