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What Is Authentication?

Authentication is the process of determining whether someone or something is who or what it says it is. 

Deeper Definition

Authentication is the act of verifying whether something, such as an identity or a piece of art, is genuine. For instance, it could involve ensuring that a product or document is not counterfeit, validating someone’s identity documents, or determining the correct age of an artifact.

User authentication confirms an individual is who they claim to be in computer systems, usually based on a username, password, or some additional detail, before granting them access to a secure environment. Essentially, it helps prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive or personal information that does not belong to them.

There are several ways an individual’s identity may be authenticated when trying to access a computer system. A standard method is to request that an individual provide credentials such as a password matching a user ID, username, email, or phone number. The practice of asking for a matching user ID and password is known as single-factor authentication (SFA). In recent years, most companies have gone further to request additional information such as a biometric signature or one-time password (OTP), an authorization code valid for only one login session or transaction. The act of requesting additional information after SFA is known as two-factor authentication (2FA).

In art and antiques, authentication confirms whether a given artifact is genuine or forged. Art experts use various methods to authenticate artworks; the widely accepted is provenance – a record of ownership of a work. Good provenance provides an unequivocal assurance that a piece of art is genuine.

Authentication Example

Authentication involves verifying whether something or a person is what or who it claims to be. Usually, for this type of system to work, there needs to be existing data compared to the new variable. An example of authentication that frequently features our daily lives is the Password or Pattern unlock feature on our smartphones. Suppose you have that feature set on your phone; you or anyone must input the correct password or pattern you preset to access the contents of your smartphone, thus ensuring privacy and preventing unauthorized usage of the device.

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