Authentication is the process used to verify to the computer system or network that the individual is who they claim to be. It is a key element in the security of a system, for if this system is bypassed or spoofed, then all subsequent security decisions can be in error. One of the key design questions is the level of assurance needed with respect to authentication. If an application is web-based, where users need to log in to establish their identity, then the design and securing of this information becomes an important part of the security equation. Authentication data is highly valuable data to an attacker and needs to be protected. This shows the interconnected nature of security, authentication, and confidentiality issues, as well as many others.

Authentication systems are complex, and the difficulty in designing and implementing them can be a daunting task. Whenever possible, it is best to leave authentication to established systems, such as the operating system. This makes it easier to integrate with existing operational security systems, and most operating system (OS) authentication systems are well tested and vetted. If the OS method is not appropriate, such as in web app login systems, then adherence to proper security design patterns for authentication systems is essential.

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