Definition of authentication in The Network Encyclopedia.

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What is Authentication (in computer networking)?

The process of validating users’ credentials to allow them access to resources on a network. On a Microsoft Windows NT or Windows 2000 network, authentication can be handled in one of two ways:

  • Logging on to a member server or workstation:
    Authentication is performed by the member server or workstation itself using its local Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database.


  • Logging on to a domain in Windows NT and Windows 2000:
    Authentication is performed by a domain controller on the network.


Authentication can be further classified according to how the credentials are passed over the network and includes the following methods:

  • Anonymous access:
    This method is supported by Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS) and allows anonymous users on the Internet access to Web content on your server.


  • Basic Authentication:
    This method transmits passwords as clear text and is often used in UNIX networks and for File Transfer Protocol (FTP) services.


  • Windows NT Challenge/Response Authentication:
    This is the standard secure authentication method for Windows NT domain controllers.


  • Kerberos v5 Security Protocol:
    This is the standard secure authentication method for Windows 2000 domain controllers.