Optiv Cybersecurity Dictionary

What is Hardware Authentication?

Hardware authentication is an approach to user authentication that relies on a dedicated physical device (such as a token) held by an authorized user, in addition to a basic password, to grant access to computer resources.


The required device generates a unique and temporary cryptographic code that must be input by the user, in addition to a password, to gain access to a computer resource. The combination of the hardware authentication device and the password constitute a 2FA (2-factor authentication) system. Without the code, a hacker that has stolen a user's password will not be able to gain access to a protected system. One problem with hardware based authentication devices is that they can be lost or stolen, which can create login issues for legitimate users. Some alternatives to hardware based authentication include software based (which uses an app on a mobile phone or desktop to create the temporary codes) or SMS (which sends an SMS message to an associated mobile phone for user confirmation before an identity can be authenticated). Each system of authentication has unique advantages and disadvantages.    


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