What is Authorization? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is Authorization? Everything You Need to Know (2023)<br />

What is Authorization?

In today’s technology-driven world, managing access to sensitive information has become more critical than ever. Ensuring the right people have access to the right resources at the right time can be a daunting task. That’s where understanding authorization and authentication comes into play.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore these two essential concepts, their roles in identity and access management, and how they work together to protect your valuable data and resources.


  • Getting authorization means obtaining permission to do something. It could refer to getting approval to access a resource, make changes to a system, or perform an action.

  • It has three steps: Authentication, access control, and decision-making. And there are four model types (RBAC, ABAC, MAC & DAC) to manage permissions.

  • It plays a crucial role in safeguarding valuable data and resources against both external and internal threats.

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Understanding Authorization

Imagine a busy corporate network with numerous employees accessing various applications and services. How do you ensure that only the right people have access to sensitive information and resources? That’s where authorization comes in. Authorization is the process of granting someone permission to access a resource, such as a file, a webpage, or a service.

In a nutshell, authorization is all about controlling access to resources within a system. But how does it work, and why do we need it even after users have been authenticated? Let’s dive deeper into the purpose and workings of authorization.

The Purpose of Authorization

Authorization plays a crucial role in safeguarding valuable data and resources against both external and internal threats. In various industries like healthcare, education, and finance, authorization is vital to protect sensitive data such as intellectual property, medical records, and customer information.

By ensuring that only authorized users have access to specific resources, businesses can maintain compliance with regulations, protect their reputation, and avoid costly fines and legal liabilities. In short, implementing robust authorization processes is essential for security and operational efficiency.

How Authorization Works

Authorization comprises three main steps: authentication, access control, and decision-making. First, a user must prove their identity through authentication. Then, based on their authenticated identity, the authorization system determines what resources they are allowed to access and what actions they can perform. Finally, an authorization decision is made, and the user is either granted or denied access to the requested resource.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) are two popular techniques used for authorization. Both ensure access to resources is granted only to the respective users. With a robust authorization system in place, businesses can quickly grant access privileges to employees, implement single sign-on systems, and terminate temporary access when no longer needed.

Types of Authorization Models

Authorization models help govern how permissions are granted and managed within a system. There are four widely-used models: Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC), Mandatory Access Control (MAC), and Discretionary Access Control (DAC). Each model offers unique benefits and is suited for different use cases.

Understanding these models and their characteristics is crucial for implementing a comprehensive identity and access management strategy.

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is a popular authorization model that grants access to resources based on the roles of users within an organization. For example, a department manager might have access to sensitive financial data, while a sales representative can only access customer information.

RBAC simplifies authorization management by allowing system administrators to manage users and permissions collectively instead of individually. This approach reduces the complexity of managing access rights and helps prevent privilege creep, where employees accumulate more permissions than they need.

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC)

Attribute-Based Access Control (ABAC) is a more flexible authorization model that grants access to resources based on user attributes, such as job title, department, location, or project involvement. ABAC can accommodate complex access control scenarios and adapt to changing business requirements.

For instance, consider an online store that sells age-restricted products. The store requires customers to register and provide proof of their age before granting access to purchase restricted items. In this case, the authorization decision is based on the user’s age attribute, demonstrating the power and versatility of ABAC.

Mandatory Access Control (MAC)

Mandatory Access Control (MAC) is an authorization model that restricts access to resources based on a user’s security clearance and the sensitivity of the data. In MAC systems, security policies are defined by system administrators or security officers, and clearance levels are assigned to users based on their job roles, trustworthiness, or other factors.

The value of the data a resource holds determines its sensitivity. Furthermore, legal and regulatory requirements for its protection also play an important role. MAC is particularly suitable for environments where data confidentiality and integrity are of utmost importance.

Discretionary Access Control (DAC)

Discretionary Access Control (DAC) is an authorization model that emphasizes individual decision-making for granting access to resources. In a DAC system, resource owners have the discretion to decide who has access and the type of access they can have, such as read-only or read-write access.

Examples of DAC in action include operating systems, web applications, databases, and cloud environments. DAC offers more flexibility than other models, but can be challenging to manage in large systems with complex permissions structures.

Authorization in Action: Use Cases

Now that we have explored the different authorization models, let’s take a look at some real-world examples of authorization in various environments and applications. From operating systems and web applications to databases, cloud environments, and IoT devices, implementing effective authorization strategies is essential for ensuring secure access to information and services.

Operating Systems

In operating systems, authorization plays a vital role in protecting sensitive data and system resources. By implementing access controls, operating systems restrict access to sensitive files and settings, requiring users to enter administrator credentials to install software, adjust system settings, or perform other privileged actions.

In this way, authorization helps maintain system security and prevent unauthorized access to critical data and functionality.

Web Applications

Web applications use authorization to ensure secure access to information and services. For example, an online banking application may require users to authenticate with their username and password before granting access to account information and transactions.

Authorization processes within web applications are essential for protecting sensitive customer data, financial information, and other valuable assets. Implementing robust authentication and authorization strategies in web applications helps maintain user trust and comply with industry regulations.

Databases and Cloud Environments

Authorization is crucial for managing access to databases and cloud-based resources. By controlling access rights and implementing access control policies, businesses can protect sensitive data, prevent unauthorized access, and maintain compliance with industry regulations.

For instance, a company may use a managed service provider to migrate applications to the cloud, assigning client privileges to vendors to view and move information but preventing them from editing or deleting data. Effective authorization strategies in databases and cloud environments help ensure secure data storage and access for all users.

IoT Devices

With the growing number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the importance of effective authorization strategies cannot be overstated. IoT devices, such as smart home appliances and wearable technology, often collect and store sensitive user data.

Implementing robust authorization processes helps ensure that only authorized individuals can access and control these devices, protecting user privacy and preventing potential security breaches. By securing IoT devices through effective authorization, businesses can maintain customer trust and uphold data privacy standards.

Challenges and Best Practices in Authorization

Implementing effective authorization strategies can be challenging, particularly in large systems with complex permissions structures. However, by following best practices and addressing common challenges, businesses can ensure proper access control and compliance.

In this section, we will explore some of the challenges faced when implementing authorization and offer guidance on best practices for success.

Overcoming Misunderstandings

Clear communication and understanding are essential when implementing authorization systems. Common misunderstandings include confusing authorization with authentication, neglecting multi-factor authentication, and underestimating the importance of security in application development.

By addressing these misunderstandings and promoting awareness of security issues, businesses can ensure a more effective and secure authorization process.

Strengthening Authentication

Robust authentication methods are crucial for supporting effective authorization. By implementing strong authentication techniques, such as single-factor, two-factor, or multi-factor authentication, businesses can protect against unauthorized access and ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive data and resources.

Following best practices for authentication, such as prioritizing passwordless authentication and implementing multi-factor authentication, can significantly enhance the overall security of an authorization system.

Monitoring and Auditing

Regular monitoring and auditing of authorization activities are essential for ensuring proper access control and compliance. By keeping track of privileged user activity, access rights, and system alerts or failures, businesses can identify potential security threats and effectively manage access to sensitive data.

Implementing a comprehensive monitoring and auditing strategy can help maintain a secure and compliant authorization system.

Minimizing Human Error

Human error can be a significant risk factor in granting and managing access permissions. To reduce the risk of human error, businesses should implement the principle of least privilege, limiting user access to the minimum necessary for their job roles. Providing extensive and frequent training, as well as promoting awareness of security issues, can help prevent human error in information security.

Additionally, having disaster recovery plans in place can prepare organizations for unexpected disruptions and minimize the impact of human error.

Authorization vs. Authentication: Key Distinctions

While authorization and authentication are closely related and often used interchangeably, they serve distinct roles and functions within an identity and access management (IAM) system. Understanding the key differences between these two concepts is crucial for implementing a comprehensive IAM strategy that effectively safeguards sensitive data and resources.

Authorization is the process of granting access to specific resources or functions within an IAM system. It involves determining which users or groups of users are allowed to access certain resources or perform certain actions. Authentication, on the other hand, is the same thing.

Defining Authentication

Authentication is the process of verifying a user’s identity, ensuring that they are who they claim to be. This can be done through various methods, such as passwords, tokens, smart cards, or biometrics.

Authentication is the first step in the process of granting access to resources, laying the foundation for subsequent authorization decisions.

The Relationship Between Authorization and Authentication

Authorization and authentication work together to provide a comprehensive and secure IAM system. While authentication verifies a user’s identity, authorization determines what resources they can access and what actions they can perform based on their authenticated identity. In other words, authentication answers the question, “Who are you?”, while authorization answers the question, “What can you do?”

Together, these processes ensure a secure and efficient access control system for businesses and organizations.


In conclusion, understanding the concepts of authorization and authentication is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of sensitive data and resources in today’s technology-driven world. By implementing effective authorization models, monitoring and auditing access control, and emphasizing user education, businesses can protect their valuable assets and ensure compliance with industry regulations. As organizations continue to adapt to the evolving digital landscape, a comprehensive IAM strategy that incorporates both authorization and authentication is essential for success.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What is the meaning of getting authorization?

Getting authorization means obtaining the official permission and approval needed to do something. It could refer to getting permission to access a resource, make changes to a system, or perform an action.

Whatever the case may be, authorization is the key to making sure all parties involved are in agreement before proceeding.

What is authorization (with example)?

Authorization is the process of granting an individual or group access to a particular resource. For example, in a computer system, this might be granting users the ability to view a certain file on the server, while for physical buildings authorization might entail giving people access via a security code.

Access control is an important part of any security system, and authorization is a key component of access control. It is important to ensure that only those with the appropriate permissions are allowed.

What is the meaning of Autorisation?

Autorisation is a formal way of allowing someone or something to do an action, which can be expressed in the form of written permission. It’s the process of getting approval or consent from an authority before taking a specific course of action.

In other words, it’s granting authorization to do something.

What is authorization in terms of security?

Authorization in terms of security is the process of giving permission to a user or system entity to access resources they are allowed to view and/or modify. This helps ensure that only authorized people have access to sensitive data.

With authorization, organizations can control who has access to which resources, ensuring that security and privacy are maintained.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.

Over the years, he has tested most of the best antivirus software for Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS, as well as many VPN providers.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

This website is hosted on a Digital Ocean server via Cloudways and is built with DIVI on WordPress.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.

Security Software

Best Antivirus for Windows 11
Best Antivirus for Mac
Best Antivirus for Android
Best Antivirus for iOS
Best VPN for Windows 11

Cybersecurity articles

Ad Blocker
AES Encryption
Antivirus – How Does it Work
Antivirus – What is it
Antivirus vs Firewall
Antivirus vs Internet Security
API Security
Application Security
Authentication Examples
Biometrics Examples
Certificate Authority (CA)
Cloud Security
Cryptography Examples
Cryptography Types
Cyber Hygiene
Cyber Insurance
Cyber Resilience
Cyber Safety
Cyber Security
Cyber Security Examples
Cyber Security Types
Cyber Threat Intelligence
Dark Web Monitoring
Data Encryption
Data Integrity Examples
Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Data Privacy
Data Security
Disaster Recovery (DR)
Do Android Phones Need Antivirus
Do Chromebooks Need Antivirus
Do iPhones Need Antivirus
Do Macs Need Antivirus
Does Linux Need Antivirus
Does Windows 10 Need Antivirus
Does Windows 11 Need Antivirus
Email Encryption
Encryption Key
Endpoint Security
False Positives
File Encryption
Firewall – What Does it Do
Firewall Examples
Firewall Types
Heuristic Analysis
How to Clean and Speed up Your PC
HTTPS Examples
Incident Response
Information Security (InfoSec)
Information Security Types
Internet Security
Internet Security Software
Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
Intrusion Detection System Examples
Intrusion Detection System Types
Intrusion Prevention System (IPS)
Intrusion Prevention System Examples
Intrusion Prevention System Types
IoT security
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
Multi-Factor Authentication Examples
Network Security
Network Security Key
Network Security Types
Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW)
Obfuscated Server
Onion over VPN
Parental Controls
Password Examples
Password Manager
Patch Management
Penetration Testing (Pen Testing)
Penetration Testing Types
Proxy Server vs VPN
Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
Quantum Cryptography
Red Team
Sandbox Environment
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
Security Audit
Security Operations Center (SOC)
Security Policy
Security Policy Examples
Software Patching
Software Security
SSL Certificate
SSL Certificate Types
SSL Handshake
Threat Hunting
Threat Intelligence
Threat Modeling
Threat Modeling Examples
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Two-Factor Authentication Examples
Virtual Keyboard
Virtual Private Network (VPN)
VPN Examples
VPN Kill Switch
VPN Protocol
VPN Split Tunneling
VPN Tunnel
VPN Types
Vulnerability Scan
Web Application Firewall (WAF)
White Hat Hacker
Windows Defender
Wireguard vs OpenVPN
Zero Trust Architecture