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Learn authentications with online courses and programs

Cybersecurity experts and system developers can help businesses protect against data breaches and ensure compliance by implementing protocols for user substantiation. Learn authentication fundamentals with online courses from edX.

What are authentications?

Authentications are methods used to validate the identity of a user before granting access to services or resources.Footnote 1 These methods are integral to information security because only authorized systems or individuals should be allowed to engage with sensitive data, networks, or applications. 

Some common types of authentications include: 

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

  • Primary/single-factor authentication

  • Two-factor authentication 

  • Single sign-on (SSO)

Authentication protocols define the process for credential exchange between the user and the host system. Common authentication protocols include SAML authentication, LDAP, OAuth2, RADIUS, and Kerberos.Footnote 2

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Authentications course curriculum

Individuals interested in how to learn authentications can get started with an online course. These lessons are designed to cater to individuals with varying levels of expertise, offering a comprehensive range of topics in the field of information security.

Introductory authentications tutorial concepts may include:

  • Definition of authentication and its role in cybersecurity 

  • Access control and risk assessment

  • Unauthorized access situations, like security breaches

Next, learners can turn their attention to intermediate authentications courses. They may study:

  • Password, certificate-based, and biometric authentication

  • Identity and access management (IAM)

  • Message authentication codes 

Finally, individuals with expertise in the field of information security may find the following topics relevant and deserving of further study:

  • Access control policy framework

  • Techniques for securing remote access

  • Risk mitigation strategies to prevent unauthorized access

  • Elements of information assurance

  • Public key infrastructure (PKI), cryptography, and encryption 

  • Methods for testing access controls systems

edX offers online courses that allow learners to study a variety of topics, including computer science, web development, and much more. Sign up for an accelerated boot camp or enroll in a full degree program and start working toward a bachelor's degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You can also explore executive education programs specifically designed for busy professionals.

Explore jobs that use authentications

System and data security is integral to many industries and organizations. To counter the ongoing risk of cybersecurity threats, companies turn to authentication experts to secure their data and systems with properly-managed access controls. 

Examples of jobs that use authentications include:

  • Software developer: Develops, troubleshoots, and maintains functional software applications.Footnote 3 Many applications require secure access controls, so these developers are expected to code authentication modules.

  • Cryptographer: Designs and implements cryptographic algorithms.Footnote 4 Examples include digital signatures and encryptions that ensure secure transactions and communications. Authentication helps ensure that only the intended recipients have permission to access data.

  • Cybersecurity specialist: Ensures the security of a company’s system, data, and network. Generally, they are tasked with designing and implementing security policies, developing strategies, and performing risk assessments.Footnote 5

  • Information security analyst: Identifies, assesses, and mitigates security risks. They can also install software like firewalls and credential management tools, among other measures that protect computer networks.Footnote 6

  • Computer systems administrator: Maintains an organization's network's security and functionality. These administrators are trained to configure and install software and hardware, troubleshoot the system for issues, and set up a company’s authentication portal.Footnote 7

While many of these roles exist within similar industries, employment qualifications for careers that may utilize authentications differ based on the position and employer. Some roles may require an advanced degree, while others may only ask for a demonstration of skills that can be acquired in a cybersecurity boot camp, for example. Sometimes a coding boot camp may also suffice, depending on the role. Before deciding on which learning path will work best for you, research potential roles you hope to pursue and align your coursework with your professional aspirations.

How to use authentications for cybersecurity

Authentications are critical components of cybersecurity. Network engineers, system administrators, information security analysts, cryptographers, and compliance professionals use authentications daily to secure access to systems and data. 

Network engineers can use authentications to set up mechanisms for remote access to resources and networks. Information security analysts have the skills to design multi-factor authentication solutions to prevent data breaches. Other professionals like IT administrators and developers can create authentication solutions that grant only authorized users access to specific resources within a system. These tasks may require in-depth knowledge of specific toolsets. For example, a developer working in Microsoft’s .NET framework should aim to be familiar with the types of authentications in ASP.NET.

Individuals who want to work in cybersecurity can work on building a strong understanding of database technologies and coding languages like JavaScript, Python, C#, or others. These professionals may benefit from learning how to be concise with authentication methods and protocols and be conversant with applications like Duo authentication and Google authenticator for mobile phones. 

Additional knowledge in cybersecurity principles like risk identification and management, control implementation, events logs collection, response and recovery, and maturity modeling is crucial.Footnote 8

Apart from completing coursework, aspiring professionals may benefit from actively seeking opportunities to enhance their analytical and problem-solving abilities. They should also be willing to continuously adapt to new technologies and security threats by attending conferences and training sessions.