A distributed computer system has a number of computers coupled thereto at distinct nodes. The computer at each node of the distributed system has a trusted computing base that includes an authentication agent for authenticating requests received from principals at other nodes in the system. Requests are transmitted to servers as messages that include a first identifier provided by the requester and a second identifier provided by the authentication agent of the requester node. Each server process is provided with a local cache of authentication data that identifies requesters whose previous request messages have been authenticated. When a request is received, the server checks the request's first and second identifiers against the entries in its local cache. If there is a match, then the request is known to be authentic. Otherwise, the server node's authentication agent is called to obtain authentication credentials from the requester's node to authenticate the request message. The principal identifier of the requester and the received credentials are stored in a local cache by the server node's authentication agent. The server process also stores a record in its local cache indicating that request messages from the specified requester are known to be authentic, thereby expediting the process of authenticating received requests.