User Authentication: Everything You Need to Know

Molly Floyd
Content & SEO
March 24, 2022

TABLE OF CONTENTS

User authentication is the fastest emerging aspect of website authentication. This article will illuminate the advantages and several methods to improve your website’s login using User Authentication techniques.

What Is User Authentication?

User authentication is a crucial security process that deals with verifying identity when a user tries to access a network. This process further covers the registration and login processes. Whenever a new user visits a website and registers for an account, they have to create a unique ID and a passkey for the same. 

The concept of user authentication can be further simplified to refer to a process that enables the user to gain repeated access to their accounts and controls all unauthorized access, thus providing security from unauthenticated users. 

To understand the user auth process for your website: suppose there is a user A. User A can only access their account. If they want to gain access to someone else’s account, the process of user authentication will deny user A and prevent this from happening.

How Does User Authentication Work?

The primary use of user authentication is to deal with human and machine interaction. Generally, when a user tries to access a network, they must prove their identity via the unique ID and the password they had provided. These unique credentials allow the system to recognize the user and authorize the access and transfer of credentials from the user to the machine or network. 

Here is a 3-task process that will simplify the concept and functions of user authentication:

  1. It manages the connection between the user and the computer.
  2. User authentication serves the purpose of verifying the user's identity.
  3. It decides whether the user will get access or not.

User authentication is a simple process requiring users to use their credentials to log in to your website. These credentials are further sent to the authentication server, which compares the information with the previously filled credentials in the user's file. If the authentication server finds a match of information, the system grants access to accounts. Whereas if the match is not found, the system declines access. 

A user authentication system offers several features, like recognizing suspicious activity when unsuccessful attempts are made, and alternative authentication methods like a one-time password or password reset.

Types of Authentication

As a business owner, user authentication is essential for your website to nullify all unwanted and unauthorized attempts to access information in your users' accounts. To understand the several authentication methods, you must understand the authentication factor.

Authentication factors refer to the information provided by the user to the server for the confirmation of their identity. Three authentication factors are available to enhance user authentication for your website:

Knowledge factors

Knowledge factors refer to the factors the user must know to log in to their account successfully. Several things can come under knowledge factors, like the username, PIN, or password. However, there are challenges associated with it as it is a moderately easy job to guess these factors.

Inheritance factors

Inheritance factors are the biological characteristics of a user, which are involved in user auth methods like fingerprint and facial recognition processes. These factors include all the biometric authentication factors available. Authentication of this kind is comparatively tougher to crack, providing you and your user better safety.

Possession factors

Possession factors include all the items that a user should have to log in successfully. Position factors generally include one-time password tokens, ID cards, key fobs, or any other physically possessed items that can perform a successful login to your user's account.

User Authentication vs. User Authorization 

Authorization and authentication are generally used interchangeably, but they are different processes serving the sole purpose of protecting your website from harmful and malicious attacks.

Authentication refers to the process of verification of your user, whereas authorization can be defined as verifying the user's access to the data. In simple words, authentication includes passwords, biometric information, or any other verification method required by your website to register your user successfully.

On the other hand, authorization refers to the settings implemented and maintained by your website that limit and analyze your user's access to data. 

Let's take an example to understand the difference between authentication and authorization.

On your website, authentication refers to the login process that requires some username and password from the user; authorization involves access to the amount of data or information you are providing to your user.

Methods of User Authentication

We have discussed the different types of user authentication, and we now know that it can be categorized into three types: knowledge, possession, and inheritance. However, these three factors have several types and methods, classified into two categories based on their large-scale uses.

Password-based User Authentication 

Password-based user authentication is a tried-and-tested user authentication method used by millions and billions of users on the internet. These passwords are generally used to provide security for personal accounts like email, e-commerce, online banking, and social media profiles. However, with continuously evolving technology, passwords are not as secure as many users think with continuously evolving technology. 

Here is a brief explanation of the process of the password-based user authentication method:

  • When a user lands on your website, your website will ask them to enter their username and password.
  • The information entered by the user is further sent to the website server, which compares the credentials with the information the user provides while registering on your website.
  • If your website server finds the entered credentials matching the information provided earlier by the user, it allows them to access the account information and data.

Password-less User Authentication

In layman's language, password-less user authentication methods consist of authentication techniques that do not require a password to perform a successful login. With increasing internet use, password-less user auth methods have become incredibly popular and successful. There are various types of such login methods; however, the most common password-less user auth techniques are biometrics and email authentication.

Biometrics

Biometrics includes all the biological characteristics that can verify your identity. Hence, biometric authentication includes methods like fingerprint recognition, iris scanning, and facial recognition. These biometrics are considered inheritance authentication factors and are among the most secure options of all user authentication methods. 

Your website's user interaction and user experience are the most important thing as a business owner. When you provide your user the facility of simply logging in by using their fingerprint, you take away all the hectic procedures of remembering, maintaining, and entering a password. It is also the most secure and trusted as every user has unique biometrics, and it is a tough job to forge someone's biometrics.

Email authentication

This user auth method is generally used in the e-commerce sector, where users perform online payments. The websites that usually utilize the online payment facility often face the issues of false identity and authentication problems where someone tries to get access to their user's accounts to gain access and control over the payment section. 

If you are an online store or deal with any kind of online activity that can be harmed or breached by false identities, you can use email authentication as it provides your user access to their account with just one secure click. Several user authentication service providers are available globally, like Memberstack, which offers comprehensive user authentication solutions.

How to Improve User Authentication?

There are several methods to improve user authentication. We list six best practices that can help you with better user auth without compromising on your user experience:

  1. Activation of multi-factor authentication
  2. Ask your users to change their passwords frequently every month
  3. Recommend your users to avoid reusing their passwords
  4. Suggest strong passwords to your users
  5. Advise your users to check existing data breaches 
  6. Shift to the use of biometric user authentication technique
  7. Try Memberstack  for user authentication services

Wrapping Up

Privacy and security are the two most essential elements of your user's identity online. To gain their trust, you must grow a practice of trustworthy and powerful user auth methods and systems. However, such a user auth service should not cost you your valuable user experience. You can try Memberstack for reliable and robust user authentication services.