Security Token Definition

What Is a Security Token?

A security token is a portable device that authenticates a person's identity electronically by storing some sort of personal information. The owner plugs the security token into a system to grant access to a network service. Security Token Services (STS) issue security tokens that authenticate the person's identity.

The Basics of a Security Token

Security tokens come in many different forms, including hardware tokens that contain chips, USB tokens that plug into USB ports, and wireless Bluetooth tokens or programmable electronic key fobs, which activate devices remotely (for example, to gain access to a car or apartment building).

Single sign-on services also use security tokens to log users into third-party websites seamlessly. Disconnected tokens are not linked to the computer or network in any way; rather, the user enters the information from the token manually into the system. Connected tokens work electronically and automatically transmit information to the network once they're connected.

Real-World Example of a Security Token

You might use a security token to access a sensitive network system such as a bank account, in order to add an extra layer of security. In this instance, the security token is used in addition to a password to