Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires various authentication methods to grant users access to data or a network. It’s an additional layer of security, which contrasts with single-factor authentication, which only relies on one authenticating factor, usually a password. Although it can cost more to implement and be more complicated than single-factor authentication, multi-factor authentication is vital in today’s age with the increasing threats of cyber attacks. The benefits of multi-factor authentication far outweigh the benefits of single-factor authentication, which only consists of usually costing less and being less complicated than MFA authentication.
MFA is an additional layer of security and authentication that requires at least two different authentication methods for a user to access data or a network. The MFA process typically begins when a user initiates the authentication process by entering login credentials to a password-based system. Then they are prompted to provide additional authentication through other means, such as token keys. The additional authentication steps prevent breaches. If the user’s login credentials in this example are compromised, the extra authentication step in MFA will prevent a full-on breach.
As the “multi” in multi-factor authentication implies, there are various authentication methods, each with advantages. MFA is often associated with passwords. Still, other authentication methods are used with MFA, such as PINs and security questions. The latter can be counterproductive as they can be complicated and burdensome for the user. Therefore they tend to use easy-to-guess answers that can be found with little research through publicly available information, i.e., mother’s maiden name, elementary school attended, etc.
Other MFA factors and methods are hardware-bound. These examples include token keys, smartphones, and smart cards. Some of these hardware-centric multi-factor authenticators add a layer of security and ease of use by integrating biometrics, fingerprints, and facial recognition.
There are many benefits of multi-factor authentication usage. The added layer of security to sensitive data and networks makes it more cost-effective than single-factor authentication. Another advantage is that the extra layer of protection reduces password-related risks and vulnerabilities. Ultimately, it increases confidence in the user authentication processes.