What is multi factor authentication vs 2fa (two factor authentication)?

SkyTerra What is multi factor authentication vs 2fa

Multi factor authentication (MFA) and two factor authentication (2FA) are often used interchangeably, but they are really not the same though close. Both verify that you are who you say you are. However, 2fa specifically needs only two forms of authentication while MFA requires two or more. Both are MFAs but both are not 2FAs. Clear? 

It does get confusing especially since one of the “factors” in both cases is email/password. People often think that email/password is already two factors but it is not.

Comparing multi factor authentication vs 2fa, is really considering how many forms of authentication you want to use. Two is the minimum, three is safer and more than that gets in the way of productivity. 

Remember the last time you logged in to a website? You were asked to provide a username and password. Again, that is really only one factor of authentication. 2FA takes this a step further by asking for one more factor, such as answers to previously asked security questions. These all fall into the “something you know” category.

Most MFA requires you to provide a “something you know, have or are” answers:

  • “Something you know” — your father’s middle name, your favorite book/movie, etc.
  • “Something you have” — The most common “have” is your cellphone. The website you are trying to get into will send a text or push notification. Enter that code and you have access. There are more secure methods, such as using an authenticator app or token device. They provide an additional layer of security over simply providing information.
  •  “Something you are” — Biometrics like a fingerprint scan or face scan are the most common in this category.

It really does not matter which term, multi factor authentication vs 2fa, you use. The importance is using a powerful, tough authentication method to protect your business.