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Authorization is a critical concept in computer systems security, forming an integral part of the process of ensuring that an authenticated user has appropriate access rights to certain resources or areas within a system. While it is closely linked with authentication, the two concepts serve distinct functions within the security framework.

  1. Difference from Authentication: Authentication and authorization are often grouped together, but they serve different purposes. Authentication is about verifying the identity of a user, device, or system. It answers the question: “Who are you?” Authorization, on the other hand, happens after successful authentication and answers the question: “What are you allowed to do?”
  2. Role of Authorization: Authorization comes into play when a system, after authenticating a user, needs to decide what resources the user can access and what operations they are allowed to perform. The process involves checking the user’s access rights or privileges for the resource in question.
  3. Access Control: Authorization is commonly managed through an access control list (ACL) or policy which outlines what specific permissions an authenticated user has, such as read, write, or execute permissions. It’s also common to have roles (like “admin” or “user”) that have predefined authorization levels.
  4. Importance of Authorization: Authorization is crucial in maintaining system security. It ensures that users have access only to those resources they are supposed to use, thus preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information or critical system resources.
  5. In Context of Web Applications: In web applications, after a user logs in (authentication), authorization determines what actions they can perform, what web pages they can see, what API endpoints they can access, etc.
  6. Examples: Examples of authorization are prevalent in everyday life. For instance, a company’s finance team may have authorization to access financial records that other departments don’t. On a social media platform, a user might have authorization to edit their own profile, but not someone else’s.

In sum, authorization is a critical aspect of information security strategies, helping ensure that users and systems have the appropriate access and privileges within computer systems, networks, and applications.

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