Security solutions that authenticate and manage user access to systems have never been more important. Increasingly organizations are relying on cloud applications like Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and many more for critical business functions. Securing access to these systems with user authentication tools is key to protecting against data loss and security breaches.
User authentication tools verify that only authorized users can access cloud applications and company accounts. These systems are designed to ensure that only the right people can access the right business systems, and they offer a range of features which help to enhance basic username and password account security.
Authentication systems provide IT teams with a host of security controls and policies, such as enforcing multi-factor authentication so that if a set of credentials are compromised in a phishing attack, there are extra layers of security place to deny access to malicious actors. Some systems will allow admins to implement passwordless authentication, providing users with single sign-on capabilities.
Gartner have predicted that in 2023, 60% of large and global enterprises and 80% of SMBs will be using enterprise-wide multi-factor authentication (MFA) to manage user authentication, backed up by an access management platform.
In this article we’ll compare the top ten User Authentication and Access Management platforms. We’ll explore key features including MFA options, adaptive authentication, flexibility, level of visibility, user experience and pricing.
What Is User Authentication And Why Is It Important?
Put simply, User Authentication covers any form of security system that verifies users identity when logging into accounts. User authentication solutions typically involve implementing multi-factor authentication to ensure users are authorised to access accounts and services, and reduce the risk of a data breach.
Multi-factor authentication requires users to have extra piece of additional knowledge rather than just relying on a password. This is often something simple, such as a pin-code from an authenticator app (something you have) or a fingerprint read (something you are). There are a wide range of authentication methods that can be used for varying levels of security, including biometrics, hardware keys and FIDO authentication tokens which remove the password altogether.
The benefit of adding user authentication is that accounts become much more secure. Passwords can often be easily guessed or stolen, and continuous user authentication means that attackers are far less likely to be able to access an account if they are able to successfully compromise a password in a phishing attack or data breach. Admins can also often configure access policies governing which resources users should have access to, and what level of security control is applied to accounts, to help organizations achieve a Zero Trust security policy.
How Do Authentication Services Work?
User authentication services verify the identity of users when they attempt to access a network, device, application, or resource. This ensures that only authorized users can log-in and access data, helping to reduce the risk of data breach.
There are three factors used in the user authentication process:
- Knowledge factors: Things the user must know to prove their identity – such as a password, PIN, or ID
- Possession factors: Things the user must have to prove their identity, such as a hardware authentication token, smartphone, one-time passcode, or FIDO software token
- Inherence factors: Things the user is which can prove their identity. This includes a broad range of biometric checks, such as fingerprint scans, retina scans, facial recognition, etc.,
User authentication services will use one or more of these factors to ensure that users are who they say they are. In a sliding security scale, passwords are the least secure method of authentication, while combining biometrics with a FIDO-based authentication method is the ‘gold standard for MFA’ according to the US Cybersecurity & Infrastructure agency.
Many modern enterprise authentication services also look at contextual factors in order to detect indicators of account or device compromise. This can include location data to detect ‘superman logins’, time-of-day, and device security.
Best Authentication Service Features
The best features to look for when choosing an authentication service include:
- Supports a range of authentication methods: The best services will support a range of authentication methods, including biometrics, hardware based tokens, FIDO, OTPs, and push notifications.
- User friendly: Services should be user friendly. Authentication apps should be easy to use and allow users to access accounts when they have the required authentication factors.
- Adaptive authentication: Adaptive authentication uses contextual factors, such as device status, location, and time-of-day to enforce additional authentication checks on risky login requests.
- Policy enforcement and alerts: Admins should be able to configure security policies and alerts to govern access and more quickly detect potential account compromise risks.
- Single Sign-On: Many enterprise authentication solutions also enable teams to configure secure single sign-on to further protect account access.