Written by Ashtyne, Edited by Michael R and Brooke.


Authentication is the technique of identifying a person and verifying that they are who they say they are. The most common form of authentication is for a user to sign in using some sort of username and password. There are many other ways to authenticate a user, some include retina scanning and voice recognition [abu]. There are also ways for the user to authenticate that a website or system is what it says it is. This is by using https in the url. Authentication is important because otherwise it would be much easier to steal information of users and potentially even their identity.

Authenticating the User

Authenticating the user is important because it allows only people with certain knowledge to access potentially important and private information. With different possibilities to authenticate users, there is less risk that a user claiming to be someone else can access that information.


As mentioned earlier, the most common way for a system to authenticate a user is through username and password. Many systems require the users’ password to fulfill certain requirements, such as number of characters, having special characters, and having numbers. The reason for this is to make sure that the password is as unique as possible and difficult for people to guess [pea]. This type of authentication is one of the first types of computer authentication and still continues to be the front runner in authentication to this day.

Retina Scanning

Retina scanning is a technique of identifying someone by scanning the blood vessels of their eye. When scanning an eye, a beam of infra-red light is casted into the eye. Retinal scanners are pretty accurate and hard to trick. Many times the infra-red has trouble acquiring the image of the eye and can take a small amount of time, which makes it uncomfortable for users to stand at a scanner with their eye open for long periods of time.

Voice Recognition

Voice recognition is when someone speaks and a computer program takes that input and compares it to samples it already has. Many systems take time to learn the different mannerisms that people use when speaking, so the user must train the system by reading certain phrases to the system. The audio that these programs receive are converted to digital signals and compared to the digital signals already stored in the program. If the signals match, then access is granted. Voice recognition is not the most secure method of authorization because voices can be easily recorded or mimicked.


Fingerprints are another way to identify people. Fingerprints are unique for every person and no two people have the same fingerprint. When a fingerprint is being scanned a computer system looks at different patterns in the lines on the finger. There are three different basic patterns to a fingerprint, the arch, loop, and whorl. Scanning fingerprints has become increasingly popular considering Apple, Samsung, and other electronic companies have started including them in their phones.

Face Recognition

Face recognition is a way for identifying someone by taking a picture of their face and comparing their features to those of a pre-loaded image. This type of recognition is similar to the other biometric systems that look at fingerprints or retinal scanning. Some of the things that the system compares are the size, position, and shape of a user’s eyes, nose, cheekbones and it can also look at the texture of their skin. There are some computers and a few phones that include this as an option for users to log in with.

Picture Password

Picture passwords are pictures that are used to log into computers and tablets. A person can choose three moves; a dot, a circle, or a line, anywhere on a chosen picture. This is another form of protection similar to passwords because it is something that you know. Picture passwords are a little more difficult than regular passwords for attackers to figure out because you cannot try to get in remotely, the attacker must have the physical device.

Authenticator App

Authenticator apps are commonly used for a two-factor authentication. These are apps that are synced to certain websites and have numbers that a person can enter when logging in. The numbers typically change every few minutes or so and therefore would incorporate something you know (a password) and something you have (your phone).


This is an example of an app. There are many different services that can sync with this specific type of two factor authentication. They all have their own number that can be typed in to a specific spot when logging in to the respective site. Most apps have the numbers change every 30 seconds, but some are longer than that.

Authenticating the Website

Whenever someone visits a website there is always the chance that the link is taking them to a website that isn’t actually where they intended to go. You could be thinking that you are going to Amazon, but someone actually made it so that when is typed in the user is taken to another website. The way to combat this is with https.


Using https is something that most people never think about or notice, but it is almost always there. In the url there will typically be green text at the beginning. This means that the system has checked and made sure that the website the user typed in or clicked on is truly that website and that it isn’t a fake amazon website. Https also makes sure that the website is secure and that any information entered, such as a password or even a social security number is safe and private [bwa].


[abu]"Understanding Authentication, Authorization, and Encryption." N.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
[bwa]Cairns, Cade, and Somerfield "The Basics of Web Application Security." 05 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Feb. 2017.
[pea]Bonneua, Herley, Van Oorschot, and Stajano "Passwords and the Evolution of Imperfect Authentication." Communications Of The ACM 58 July 2015. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost 20 Feb. 2017.