4 Different Authentication Models (And How They Can Help)

4 Different Authentication Models (And How They Can Help)

What are 4 different authentication models enterprises can deploy? How can they help your enterprise? 

Authentication might be the heart and soul of identity management. But it’s far from a one-size-fits-all capability. You might need a very different authentication model than your competitors or other businesses. 

Here’s some information to consider. 

4 Different Authentication Models (And How They Can Help)

Single Factor Authentication

Technically, when we discuss single-factor authentication, we usually mean password-only authentication (i.e. the most common type of authentication). However, this model applies to any authentication platform that uses only one factor; even biometrics falls into it. 

Single Factor Authentication is correctly regarded as the weakest of all authentication models. Passwords can easily be cracked, guessed, or stolen – even social media accounts can provide the necessary information for hackers – and that doesn’t even get into possible Dark Web purchase options. But even if your business does switch to a biometric authentication model (which is objectively stronger), that still leaves your business vulnerable. 

A single-factor authentication system, regardless of what factor it uses, still only leaves a single layer of security between hackers and their targets. 

This is one model to avoid as you set up your identity management platform. 

Multifactor Authentication 

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) generally refers to an authentication platform that requires multiple kinds of credentials and verifying information before granting access. Two-factor authentication (2FA) falls under this umbrella, but usually, cybersecurity experts distinguish between it and multifactor. 

MFA works better than virtually any other authentication model at deflecting or deterring a vast majority of attacks via compromised accounts or login portals. The more barriers and checks between the initial access request and the granting of that access, the safer your data remains.

Unfortunately, multifactor authentication struggles with negative press. Enterprise IT decision-makers choose to insist on sticking with outdated single-factor authentication (usually in the form of passwords) because they worry about interfering with the login process.

Yet many of these factors don’t inhibit login processes and thus stifle workflows. In fact, most of them operate under the surface, never observed unless something detects a potential threat.

However, multifactor authentication only operates at the login stage. What about extending that security beyond the initial portal? 

Continuous Authentication

Continuous Authentication extends the authentication protocol past the login stage, providing a new level 

Continuous Authentication first establishes a baseline set of behaviors for every user and entity entering and operating on the network. It observes how they conduct workflows, how they access databases, and how they communicate with other users. 

Hackers can replicate many authentication factors, but they can’t replicate the behaviors of the users. Thus they reveal themselves as imposters, enabling prompt investigation and remediation. 

Step-Up Authentication

Step-Up Authentication combines the strongest aspects of multifactor authentication and continuous authentication models. As such, it balances security and workflow efficiency. 

Step-Up Authentication allows users to log in with only a basic credential, perhaps even with just a password. As a trade-off, that same system only allows users access to the most basic of resources initially. If the user wants to access more sensitive databases or applications, then they must provide more authentication factors. 

Where You Need More Than Authentication Models

What you might not realize is that identity management isn’t just about authentication. In fact, it can involve components that ensure the user authenticated can’t abuse the permissions they possess. 

Most prominently, this includes role management, a critical part of identity governance (IGA). Role Management is a tool that enforces the Principle of Least Privilege; this states that users should only have the bare minimum of permissions to complete their tasks on the network. Therefore, role management ties permissions to a job title. 

The implications of role management paired with strong authentication can truly stagger. You can learn more about it in our Identity Management Buyer’s Guide, our Identity Governance Buyer’s Guide, and the Solutions Suggestion Engine

Ben Canner

Ben Canner is an enterprise technology writer and analyst covering Identity Management, SIEM, Endpoint Protection, and Cybersecurity writ large. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Clark University in Worcester, MA. He previously worked as a corporate blogger and ghost writer. You can reach him via Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ben Canner