What is User Authentication in Network Security?

What is User Authentication in Network Security?

Networks can sometimes be the weak links in the modern day computing world. They are among the most vulnerable and easily hijacked section of the entire setup. This is why different typologies and network security protocols put so much emphasis on the ability to recognize any user trying to make a connection. The recognition process doesn’t necessarily identify who the user is. It just verifies the validity of the credentials on the user to determine if that user is cleared to use the resources. This, in essence, is the authentication process in network security.

Authentication happens in two levels. A user or human visible level and a machine level. The human-level authentication is a simple login where you provide a net ID and a password to gain access. Machine level authentication is however more complex and involves a predetermined ID and password that only a machine authorized to access the network can know.

This could occur every time the computer or node in question tries to access the network after the user has finished the initial human authentication. The router or server, in this case, must remember that the machine is authorized to access the network and the machine trying to connect needs to provide its identity (IP address or MAC address) and an accompanying secret key to prove its authority to access the network.

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Each authentication process comprises of three main factors:

Knowledge Factors

This is a set of information specific to a user. It’s the information that will identify you to the network. It could be a personal identification number and a password or a user name and an answer to a secret challenge. The complexity of these combinations changes depending on how delicate the network in question is hence how much the stake holders are willing to do to protect it from unauthorized use.

Possession Factors

Possession factors address the items a specific user has in possession. This could be hardware devices, for instance a specific MAC address on the network interface card, a security token or a mobile phone that can receive a one time verification pin.

Inheritance factors

Inheritance factors could either be biometric data that is specific to someone using biometric analysis to access a network or a cookie left in a computer to identify it in future. A good example is when your computer or phone remembers a network and automatically connects to it when it identifies it.

Who Takes Care of All This?

In most cases, users rarely know what goes on in the background. It is the work of the network and system administrator to leverage existing hardware, network protocols and software to ensure that every user in the entire system accesses only what they are cleared to access.

The cyber and network security workload can vary, based on a lot of deal factors. Generally, the assumption is that responsible users will do what they should be doing and avoid hacking and unauthorized access. In reality, any cyber and network security expert must be on their toes, poised to identify a possible weakness in the system and patch the issue before hackers can exploit it.

How to Become a Cyber and Network Expert

A cyber and network security degree program is the perfect foundation for a career in network security. Since this is a highly technical field, you will rarely get a good corporate job unless you have the right background education. A cyber and network security degree will likely teach you:

  • How to manage, monitor and maintain networking software and hardware
  • Implement cyber security measures to keep data, hardware, and personnel
  • Actively monitor and defend the network from real time attacks
  • Come up with security policies and procedures to augment network security

The work of a cyber or network security expert is routine. However, you might have to dig deeper and work over time when implementing a new network system or recovering from a security breach. This won’t be a problem if you love doing technical things and can easily immerse yourself into the process.

What is User Authentication in Network Security?

Are you interested in user authentication? If you have a passion for network security, consider earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer and Information Science with a Major in Cyber and Network Security from ECPI University. For more information on this degree path, contact a helpful admissions advisor today.

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