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The 3 Forms of Authentication & How We Use Them

By Contegix

Authentication is a security process that began long before the age of computing. Only in our current parlance, does it seem linked to our personal digital security.

There are three factors that can provide a form of authentication:

What You Know
An example of this factor of authentication is most commonly associated with online security, the password. In addition, another example might be the verbal passphrase to enter the speakeasy or an ATM pin number.

What You Have
For example, this can be as simple as a person possessing a door key to his or her home. This actually is a (questionably weak) form of authentication that the person is who they claim to be. Access cards and token authentication fobs are two common ways to authenticate in an office setting.

What You Are
This is typically some form of biometric analysis. There are various forms of this, but some common forms are finger/palm print readers and retina scan. In the past this form of authentication could only be found on things that required the highest level of security, but it has become quite common. Everyday smartphones now require fingerprint scanning before completing purchases.

Multi-factor Authentication:
Combining factors of authentication greatly reduces the chance of a failure in the authentication process.

Two and three factor authentication is catching on in many areas outside of internet services. For example, Contegix requires at least two factors of authentication for physical access to our data centers. In many cases, three are required in the form of having an access card, combined with an authorized fingerprint, and finally one must know a lock combination to gain access to their computing equipment.

Multi-factor authentication will continue to become more common for security procedures of various internet services. Many prominent internet services have already implemented them. Facebook, Twitter, and Google services already support two factor authentication. We highly encourage everyone to embrace this change early. One day we’ll all recall a time in the early 2000’s when all you needed to do was guess a single string of characters to impersonate someone else.

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