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Heimdal is a free implementation of the Kerberos V network authentication protocol, which is a system for authenticating users and services on a network.
It is built upon the assumption that the network is “unsafe”.
For example, data sent over the network can be eavesdropped and altered, and addresses can also be faked.
Therefore they cannot be used for authentication purposes.
Kerberos is a trusted third-party service.
That means that there is a third party (the Kerberos server) that is trusted by all the entities on the network (users and services, usually called principals).
All principals share a secret password (or key) with the Kerberos server and this enables principals to verify that the messages from the Kerberos server are authentic.
Thus trusting the Kerberos server, users and services can authenticate each other.
The name Kerberos comes from Κέρϐερος in Greek or Cerberus in Latin, it describes the fierce three-headed dog with the tail of a dragon, and the heads of multiple snakes along his back who stands vigilantly in place to prevent the passage of unauthorized persons. -Apollodorus II. v. xi-xii.