Endpoint authentication is a security mechanism designed to ensure that only authorized devices can connect to a given network, site or service.
The approach is also known as device authentication. In this context, the endpoint most often considered is a mobile computing device, like a laptop, smart phone or tablet but it could be any connected hardware device on a TCP/IP network. The possibilities include desktop computers, printers, servers and specialized hardware such as POS terminals, smart meters and other smart devices.
Endpoint security management is becoming increasingly important in the expanding areas of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT). Endpoint fingerprinting is one method of enabling authentication of non-traditional network endpoints such as smartcard readers, HVAC systems, medical equipment and IP-enabled door locks.
In human communications, endpoint authentication is often used in conjunction with user authentication for greater security. Authenticating both the user and the device can provide two-factor authentication (2FA). For a smartphone, there are apps that provide one time password tokens, allowing the phone itself to serve as the physical device to satisfy the possession factor. The password response sent from the registered device verifies that the user is connecting from an authorized endpoint.