Identification, Authentication, and Authorization

Posted by in CISSP, Security+, SSCP | 2 comments

Identification, Authentication, and Authorization

If you’re studying for one of the security certifications like CISSP, SSCP, or Security+ it’s important to understand the difference between identification, authentication, and authorization. These concepts are intertwined, but have specific differences. When looking at these topics, especially for the SSCP and CISSP exams, it’s important to understand the differences between subjects and objects.

  • Subject. A subject is the active entity that accesses an object. For example, when a user accesses a file, the user is the subject. Other subjects include programs, processes, and any entity that can access a resource.
  • Object. An object is a passive entity that is being accessed by a subject. For example, when a user accesses a file, the file is the object. Other objects include databases, computers, printers, or any other resource that can be accessed by a subject.

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Identification

Identification occurs when a user (or any subject) claims or professes an identity. This can be accomplished with a username, a process ID, a smart card, or anything else that can uniquely identify a subject. Security systems use this identity when determining if a subject can access an object.

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Authentication

Authentication is the process of proving an identity and it occurs when subjects provide appropriate credentials to prove their identity. For example, when a user provides the correct password with a username, the password proves that the user is the owner of the username. In short, the authentication provides proof of a claimed identity.

There are several methods of authentication that I’ll cover in another post, but in short they are:

  • Something you know, such as a password or PIN
  • Something you have, such as a smart card, CAC, PIV, or RSA token
  • Something you are, using biometrics

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Need more time? You can easily renew for another 60 days at a significantly reduced price.

All materials are available online shortly after making your payment.

Get the Security+ Full Access Study Package Here

Our online Security+ study materials are the perfect complement to the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. They can also be used to help ensure you're ready no matter what study guide you're using.

This exam is expensive.

Make sure you're ready before exam day. 

Here's what you'll get:
  • All of the multiple-choice questions from the best-selling CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. See a demo here. All questions have full explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.
  • Over 40 new multiple-choice questions we've added after publishing the study guide.
  • Over 30 performance-based questions. See a demo here.
  • All of the flashcards from the study guide. View them in any Web browser.
  • All of the audio from the study guide. Listen to a sample here.
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Authorization

Once a user is identified and authenticated, they can be granted authorization based on their proven identity. It’s important to point out that you can’t have separate authorization without identification and authentication. In other words, if everyone logs on with the same account you can grant access to resources for everyone, or block access to resources for everyone. If everyone uses the same account, you can’t differentiate between users. However, when users have been authenticated with different user accounts, they can be granted access to different resources based on their identity.

In summary, it’s important to understand the differences between identification, authentication, and authorization when studying for security exams such as the Security+, SSCP, or CISSP exams. Identification occurs when a subject claims an identity (such as with a username) and authentication occurs when a subject proves their identity (such as with a password). Once the subject has a proven identity, authorization techniques can grant or block access to objects based on their proven identities.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks Thomas. You’re absolutely correct. Looks like my typing when on autopilot in the summary. I just corrected it. Thanks again.

  2. Hello Darril
    This is an amazingly exact and helpful article. Thanks for that!

    May I indicate a possible small mistake in your last paragraph?
    You write “Identification occurs when a subject claims an identity (such as with a username) and authorization occurs when a subject proves their identity (such as with a password).”

    Didn’t you mean “… and authentication occurs …” or don’t I get your point right?

    All the best
    Thomas

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