Kerberos (pronounced /ˈkɛərbərəs/) is a computer network authentication protocol, which allows nodes communicating over a non-secure network to prove their identity to one another in a secure manner. Its designers aimed primarily at a client–server model, and it provides mutual authentication — both the user and the server verify each other's identity. Kerberos protocol messages are protected against eavesdropping and replay attacks.
Kerberos builds on symmetric key cryptography and requires a trusted third party, and optionally may use public-key cryptography by utilizing asymmetric key cryptography during certain phases of authentication.
Kerberos was created by MIT as a solution to these network security problems. The Kerberos protocol uses strong cryptography so that a client can prove its identity to a server (and vice versa) across an insecure network connection. After a client and server has used Kerberos to prove their identity, they can also encrypt all of their communications to assure privacy and data integrity as they go about their business.
Kerberos is freely available from MIT, under copyright permissions very similar those used for the BSD operating system and the X Window System. MIT provides Kerberos in source form so that anyone who wishes to use it may look over the code for themselves and assure themselves that the code is trustworthy. In addition, for those who prefer to rely on a professionally supported product, Kerberos is available as a product from many different vendors.