What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?
MFA is an authentication method that requires two or more proofs of identity to grant access to a resource such as an application, or online account. Rather than just entering a username and password, users are required to enter one or more additional verification factors. This decreases the likelihood of a successful cyber-attack.
What does MFA look like?
Multi-factor authentication methodologies can be broken up into 3 main types of additional information:
- Something you know – such as a password, passphrase or PIN.
- Something you have – such as a card or one time password (OTP) sent via text or email.
- Something you are – such as a biometric (finger print or voice recognition).
Take an ATM transaction as an everyday example of multi-factor authentication. When you want withdraw money from your account, you use your debit card (something you have) as one authentication factor. Once you have accessed your account however, you also need to enter your PIN that is associated with that card. Your PIN (something you know) is the second factor of authentication.
Why is it important?
MFA offers significantly increased security and protection from criminals.
The prior example highlights the security factor of MFA. If your debit card is lost or stolen, your PIN provides an added layer of security before your account can be accessed or money can be withdrawn.
The difference between MFA and Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
Many people often use MFA interchangeably with 2FA. Whilst following the same principle, they differ in the number of factors needed for authentication. Like the name suggests, 2FA only requires two factors, whilst MFA can be two or more factors of authentication.