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Authentication (from Greek: αυθεντικός ; real or genuine, from authentes; author) is the act of establishing or confirming something (or someone) as authentic, that is, that claims made by or about the subject are true ("authentification" is a French language variant of this word). This might involve confirming the identity of a person, tracing the origins of an artifact, ensuring that a product is what its packaging and labeling claims to be, or assuring that a computer program is a trusted one.


Authentication methods

In art, antiques, and anthropology, a common problem is verifying that a given artifact was produced by a certain famous person, or was produced in a certain place or period of history.

There are two types of techniques for doing this.

The first is comparing the attributes of the object itself to what is known about objects of that origin. For example, an art expert might look for similarities in the style of painting, check the location and form of a signature, or compare the object to an old photograph. An archaeologist might use carbon dating to verify the age of an artifact, do a chemical analysis of the materials used, or compare the style of construction or decoration to other artifacts of similar origin. The physics of sound and light, and comparison with a known physical environment, can be used to examine the authenticity of audio recordings, photographs, or videos.

Attribute comparison may be vulnerable to forgery. In general, it relies on the fact that creating a forgery indistinguishable from a genuine artifact requires expert knowledge, that mistakes are easily made, or that the amount of effort required to do so is considerably greater than the amount of money that can be gained by selling the forgery.

In art and antiques certificates are of great importance, authenticating an object of interest and value. Certificates can, however, also be forged and the authentication of these pose a problem. For instance, the son of Han van Meegeren, the well-known art-forger, forged the work of his father and provided a certificate for its provenance as well; see the article Jacques van Meegeren.

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