Authentication vs authorization: How to secure your IT infrastructure

Man working from a café with a laptop and smartphone using authentication and authorization for secure IT


#GoToGetsIT: This article is part of an ongoing series from GoTo’s thought leaders on the frontlines: Our Solutions Consultants deeply understand our customers’ unique challenges and connect the right solutions to meet their goals using GoTo technology. Here, they share their industry knowledge on what it takes to help businesses everywhere thrive in a remote or hybrid world.

How likely is a small or mid-size business to experience a cyberattack? Pretty likely, says a recent study on cybercrime. Nearly 43% of cyberattacks are targeted at SMBs, and that trend is expected to rise over the next five years, with a 15% increase in cybercrime costs reaching $10.5 trillion by 2025. Obviously, it’s a no-brainer that security in your digital environment is absolutely essential.

Let’s dive into authentication and authorization—two key functions that can make or break the protection of your IT infrastructure. First, let’s define the terms.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines authentication as, “The process of verifying the identity of a user, process or device, often as a prerequisite to allowing access to resources in an information system.”

Authorization, on the other hand, is defined as, “The process of verifying that a requested action or service is approved for a specific entity.”

Sound similar? Let’s dive deeper.

The difference between authentication vs authorization

Authentication is an important first step toward establishing the identity of a user and ensuring that only approved users have access to sensitive information or resources. Examples include codes generated from the user’s smartphone, Captcha tests, fingerprints, a combination of usernames, passwords or security tokens.

Authorization grants or denies specific permissions and access levels to authenticated users or devices. Simply put, it defines what a user can and cannot do within a system or application. Examples include providing permission to download a particular file on a server or gaining administrative access to a device.

How does this relate to IT management and support?

In today’s hybrid and work-from-anywhere environment, SMBs are ever more vulnerable as they seek to accommodate on- and offsite work relationships. In fact, 44% of businesses listed security as their top concern in a recent survey by Aberdeen Strategy & Research. The survey also found that security software spending has grown significantly over the last two years as businesses focus on protecting endpoint devices and end users. Seeking ways to protect against insecure assets is ever top of mind.

Using authentication and authorization to shore up your security

While authentication and authorization are key to the security of your systems and data, that simply may not be enough. GoTo, a leader in secure IT solutions such as GoTo Resolve, goes well beyond with a suite of tools that include:

Multi-factor Authentication (MFA)

GoTo supports MFA, a security protocol that requires users to provide two or more forms of identification before gaining access to a system. MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, as it is much harder for attackers to compromise multiple forms of authentication.

Single Sign-On (SSO)

GoTo supports SSO, a feature that allows users to log in to multiple applications or services using a single set of credentials. This simplifies the login process and reduces the number of passwords that users need to remember, ultimately reducing the risk of password-related security breaches.

Integration with Identity Providers (IdPs)

GoTo can be integrated with popular IdPs, such as Okta, Microsoft Azure AD, and Google Workspace, to streamline identity management and enforce strong authentication and authorization policies across all applications.

OAuth and OpenID Connect Support

GoTo supports OAuth, an open standard for access delegation, and OpenID Connect, an authentication layer built on top of OAuth. These protocols enable secure API authorization and federated identity management, ensuring that access to sensitive data is strictly controlled.

Customizable Access Control

GoTo allows administrators to define granular access control policies for different user groups, ensuring that users have the appropriate level of access based on their role and responsibilities within the organization.

Zero Trust Architecture

GoTo Resolve was the first SaaS (Software as a Service) solution to apply zero trust architecture to remote monitoring and management (RMM) access control. Zero trust requires authentication for each and every remote access action by asking the IT tech for their unique signature key.

Why is zero trust 100% important? As the Aberdeen study puts it, “The trend toward zero trust security has been developing over the last 20 years, as traditional approaches based on a ‘keep the bad guys outside, the good guys are on the inside’ approach have become less viable. In reality, most organizations today operate in a computing environment where ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ no longer have much meaning.”

Learn how GoTo Resolve can be your best defense against cyberattacks and bad actors using industry leading authentication and authorization methods.

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