Even people who routinely work with computers may confuse authentication and password protection, but the two actually refer to different security functions. All that password protection can do is ascertain if a given entity, such as a user trying to log in, has the required code that will enable access. Authentication, in contrast, is a security measure that attempts to ascertain that information such as a password is originating from a source that can be trusted. The two techniques used in combination provide better security than just one used in isolation.
Authentication on wireless networks
Wireless networks can provide a good illustration as to the value of authentication in practice. A company network that is secured only with a password is only as secure as the password itself. A brute force attack can discover the password if enough time and attention is given to the project; even worse is the scenario in which the password is guessable by its nature. Once the password is known to an intruder, he or she will be able to access internal company resources as desired.
Authentication as used on a wireless network is frequently linked to IP address. All computers that have any business being on the company network have been identified in advance and assigned a static IP address or one that rotates through a specified range of addresses. An authentication protocol for logon will examine the IP address of a user attempting to join the network. The password will be accepted only from those systems that are on the list of approved users.
Authentication can be implemented and can be maintained using a managed programs model for IT support.