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What is basic authentication?

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Developers 2 min read | Amanda Ranville wrote in blog on October 5, 2023

Basic authentication, also called “basic auth,” is a foundational security mechanism used in computer systems and web applications. Its primary purpose is verifying the identity of users or systems seeking access to resources, enhancing overall system security and website authorisation.

The basic authentication method is straightforward yet essential for businesses. It plays a critical role in securing computer systems and controlling data access, ensuring that only authorised parties can access sensitive resources.

When using this method, users insert an encoded string into the Authorisation header of each request.

HTTP basic authentication header format.

Basic authentication credentials are typically sent via HTTP request header, known as the basic auth header. The header format consists of the word “Basic” followed by a base64-encoded string of the username and password separated by a colon. Here’s an example:

Functionality overview.

  1. Client request: The process begins with a client requesting access to the server.
  2. Server challenge: The server responds with a challenge, requesting authentication.
  3. User credentials: The user or system provides their username and password.
  4. Encoding credentials: The credentials are encoded in base64.
  5. Sending credentials to the server: The client sends the encoded credentials to the server.
  6. Server authentication: The server decodes and verifies the credentials, granting the user access if valid.

Basic authentication is a fundamental security layer, ensuring only authorised entities can access resources. It’s essential for safeguarding sensitive data and enhancing overall system protection, seamlessly meeting requests for basic auth.

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