Types of Authentication Methods Used for Network Security

Types of Authentication Methods Used for Network Security
Types of Authentication Methods Used for Network Security

Authentication is one of the most critical aspects of cybersecurity. It is the process of confirming a user's or device's identification before granting them access to a network or system.

With the rising incidents of data breaches, phishing attacks, and identity thefts, implementing robust authentication mechanisms has become imperative for organisations to secure their systems and data.

This blog discusses the popular authentication techniques used for network security.

Types of Authentication Methods

Here are some types of authentication methods used:

Single-Factor Authentication(SFA)

Single-factor authentication uses a single credential like a password or PIN code to verify a user's identity. It is the most basic form of access control. Some examples include -

  • Username/Password: The user enters a pre-registered username and password combination to gain access.
  • PIN Code: The user enters a numeric PIN code for authentication.
  • Security Questions: The user has to answer a set of predefined personal questions correctly before getting access.

SFA is easy to implement and convenient for users. However, it is also the least secure authentication method since a single compromised credential can lead to an account takeover. Hence, SFA is increasingly being replaced by stronger authentication mechanisms.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication is an authentication technique that adds another layer of security over single-factor authentication. It requires the user to present two different types of credentials for successful verification. The main credential is something the user knows (like a password).

The second credential is something the user has (like a security token). The second factor makes it harder for attackers to gain access to an account.

Some examples of the second factor are:

  • One-time passwords (OTPs) received on mobile or email
  • Security Questions
  • Biometric verification (fingerprint, face, iris scan)
  • USB-based hardware tokens
  • Security keys

2FA protects against password leaks by introducing another credential that potential impostors would not know. It prevents most remote attacks as the attacker would need physical possession of the second factor.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication offers a higher level of assurance by requiring two or more credentials for logins. It builds on two-factor authentication by allowing any number and combination of verification factors.

Some advanced MFA methods are:

  • Context-Based Authentication - Analysing the user's location, IP address, and device identity, along with other factors to detect suspicious logins
  • Behavioural Biometrics - Monitoring user actions like keystroke dynamics and mouse movements
  • Security Questions - Asking knowledge-based security questions
  • Biometric Authentication - Fingerprint, iris scan, or facial recognition

By combining multiple factors, MFA ensures legitimate users can access networks easily while intruders face significant difficulty cracking so many credential types simultaneously. However, the extra steps can impact user convenience.

So, organisations need to choose MFA methods judiciously based on their security priorities and business requirements.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single sign-on is an authentication technique that allows users to access many applications using one set of login credentials. It authenticates them centrally and provides seamless access across all the allowed resources and systems. Some popular SSO techniques are:

  • Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML 2.0) Based SSO - enables web-based authentication and authorisation between identity providers and service providers.
  • OAuth 2.0 Based SSO - Provides authorisation flows for web, desktop, and mobile applications.
  • OpenID Connect Based SSO - Builds identity layer over OAuth 2.0 authorisation framework.

SSO eliminates the need to log in separately to every application. Users enjoy the convenience while security teams manage identities and access centrally.

Certificate-Based Authentication

Digital certificates authenticate entities like users, computers, and mobile devices using cryptographic processes. Some examples include:

  • Smart Cards/USB Tokens - Store digital certificates in tamper-proof hardware that uniquely identifies users
  • Machine Certificates - Validate devices attempting to connect to networks
  • Mobile Device Certificates - Authenticates users trying to access enterprise networks via mobiles

Certificate-based methods enhance security through public key infrastructure (PKI). The infrastructure issues trusted digital certificates that validate authenticity.

Biometric Authentication

Biometric authentication uses unique biological traits like fingerprints and facial patterns to verify user identities. Since physical characteristics are almost impossible to replicate, biometrics enhances security and convenience significantly. Some advanced methods include:

  • Iris Recognition – One of the most reliable techniques using distinct iris patterns
  • Fingerprint Authentication – Analyses fingerprint patterns for user validation
  • Palm Vein Authentication – Examines vein patterns within palms
  • Voice Recognition – Matches voice samples against stored user templates

Biometrics provides robust multi-factor authentication to high-security networks and resources. However, specialised biometric scanners can increase deployment costs. Stolen biometric templates also pose privacy risks.


A multi-layered approach combining the right authentication techniques offers resilient protection to modern networks and systems. Organisations need to assess their infrastructure and threats judiciously before zeroing down on suitable methods based on security priorities and budgets.

With threats like phishing and ransomware on the rise, solutions like Instasafe's Multi-Factor Authentication provide robust security without impacting user experience.

Moreover, Instasafe's adaptive authentication algorithms safeguard access based on user behaviour, adding an extra layer of verification.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the network authentication method?

The network authentication method is the process of verifying the identity of devices or users that attempt to access a network before granting them appropriate access rights.

2. What is authorisation in network security?

Authorisation in network security refers to the process of granting authenticated users permission to access various resources and perform allowed operations within a network.

3. What are the three main types of authentication techniques?

The three main types of authentication techniques are

1) knowledge-based methods like passwords that rely on something the user knows,

2) Possession-based methods like security tokens that rely on something the user has and

3) Biometrics like fingerprints that rely on user attributes.