December 3, 2023
Difference between Authentication and Authorization.

The difference between authentication and authorization in the context of API, along with two examples, one related to software and one real-life example, for each:


Authentication in the context of API refers to the process of verifying the identity of a user or system before granting access to the API resources. It ensures that the client making the API request is who they claim to be. There are various authentication mechanisms used in API development, such as API keys, OAuth tokens, JWT (JSON Web Tokens), or username/password combinations.

Software Example (API):
When a user wants to access certain data from a web API, they are required to provide a valid API key along with the request. The API server validates the API key against a list of authorized keys before allowing access to the requested data.

Real-Life Example (API):
In an online banking application, a user tries to view their account balance through a mobile app. The app sends an API request to the bank’s server, which requires the user to provide their username and password. The server verifies the credentials, and if they are correct, it responds with the user’s account balance.


Authorization, in the context of API, is the process of determining what actions or operations an authenticated user or system is allowed to perform on specific API resources. It involves checking the permissions and privileges associated with the authenticated identity to determine whether they can access certain endpoints or perform specific actions.

Software Example (API):
An API has several endpoints, each with different levels of access restrictions. For example, a user with “user” privileges can only access read-only endpoints, while an “admin” user has access to both read and write endpoints.

Real-Life Example (API):
In an online shopping website, there are different user roles, such as regular customers and administrators. Regular customers can view and purchase products, but only administrators can add or remove products from the inventory. When a user sends an API request to add a product, the API server checks their role (authorization) before allowing or denying the action.

Let us see the difference between authentication and authorization:

Difference between Authentication and Authorization.
Difference between Authentication and Authorization.

In summary, authentication verifies the identity of the user or system, while authorization determines the actions or operations that an authenticated entity is allowed to perform on specific API resources. Both authentication and authorization are critical aspects of API security, ensuring that only legitimate users with appropriate privileges can access and interact with the API’s functionalities.

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