3.4 Configuring and Using Authentication

Authentication is the verification of the identity of a user. A user logs in by providing a user name and a password, and the operating system authenticates the user's identity by comparing this information to data stored on the system. If the login credentials match and the user account is active, the user is authenticated and can successfully access the system.

The information that verifies a user's identity can either be located on the local system in the /etc/passwd and /etc/shadow files, or on remote systems using Identity Policy Audit (IPA), the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), the Network Information Service (NIS), or Winbind. In addition, IPSv2, LDAP, and NIS data files can use the Kerberos authentication protocol, which allows nodes communicating over a non-secure network to prove their identity to one another in a secure manner.

You can use the Authentication Configuration GUI (system-config-authentication) to select the authentication mechanism and to configure any associated authentication options. Alternatively, you can use the authconfig command. Both the Authentication Configuration GUI and authconfig adjust settings in the PAM configuration files that are located in the /etc/pam.d directory.