One-factor authentication, commonly called single-factor authentication (SFA), is a fundamental security measure that verifies a user’s identity when that user matches credentials to verify themselves digitally. Those credentials typically combine a username, such as an email address, and a password.
How One-Factor Authentication Works
One-factor authentication works on the principle that the user possesses the correct credentials to access a network or confidential information. A username will identify the user, and a password is the secret key only the user should know. Upon entering the username and password, a system reviews the credentials stored in the database to coincide with the ones entered by the user. Below are examples of how one-factor authentication works:
- Logging into a bank account application with a username and password
- Unlocking a smartphone with a passcode
- Using a PIN to complete a transaction with a debit card
- Sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok usually employ one-factor authentication, requiring users to enter a username and password
Advantages of One-Factor Authentication
Some of the benefits of one-factor authentication are:
- Simplicity: It’s easy for users. Remember a password or a PIN, and you’re good to go.
- Quick Access: It’s fast. Enter your credential, and you’re in.
- Low Overhead: Generally less complex than multi-factor methods in terms of technology and user education.
- Cost-Effectiveness for Businesses: One-factor authentication requires less infrastructure and fewer resources, making it a cost-effective option.
Disadvantages of One-Factor Authentication
Using one-factor authentication has two key disadvantages:
- Security Risks: If that single factor gets compromised, your security is at risk. Think of a stolen password giving unauthorized access.
- Compliance: In certain jurisdictions, it may be necessary to have an authentication system that is more secure than SFA.