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Most everyday processes and activities are done digitally: paying bills, sending money, and requesting services. While the shift towards the digital sphere should be celebrated, the increased convenience comes with its own risks. The threat of cybercriminals to financial safety and information privacy is rising.

Cyberattacks, hacks, and fraud are inevitable as perpetrators use more sophisticated technologies. Businesses are also at risk with the digitalization of transactions. Since traditional passwords aren’t enough to protect companies and their stakeholders, managers should look into solutions like two-factor and multi-factor authentication (2FA and MFA).

What is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)?

Simply put, two-factor authentication is a security approach that requires users to present two factors for authentication to access an account. This security process is implemented to protect the user’s credentials and resources compared to just using one password (single-factor authentication). It’s also called two-step verification or dual-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication methods rely on a password as the first factor and a security token or a biometric factor (like a fingerprint or facial scan) as the second factor.

2FA provides an additional layer of security against attackers trying to gain access to a user’s device or online account. The user’s password may be hacked, but that alone wouldn’t pass the authentication check.

Adding 2FA to an account can look like: a text message with a login code to a mobile device you use to register, an authentication app that generates a code to gain access to your account, or a biometric verification like a fingerprint or a retina scan.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

In multi-factor authentication, a user must present multiple authentication factors to access an account. Technically, 2FA is considered as a form of MFA. However, MFA refers to authentication systems that make use of 3 or more factors. Most businesses prefer this added layer of protection against unauthorized access. They use MFA to control access to internal IT systems and solutions and customer-facing applications.

Financial services companies, healthcare providers, insurance companies, cloud solution providers, and many others use MFA against data leakage, fraud, and abuse.

There are three types of authentication factors in MFA:

1. Knowledge

This factor is something you know, like a password or an answer to a question.

2. Possession

It’s something you have, like a security key or a token.

3. Inherence

It’s something you are, like a unique biometric or behavioral characteristic.

Multi-factor authentication can also include: usernames and passwords, codes sent to emails or SMS messages, proximity badges, physical tokens, USB devices, software tokens or certificates, answers to personal security questions, fingerprints, voices, facial recognition, or retina scans.

The Difference Between 2FA and MFA

The difference between 2FA and MFA is simple. 2FA utilizes two of the given factors above to verify a user’s identity and MFA involves three or more factors. 2FA is a subset of MFA, meaning all 2FA is MFA. But not all MFA is 2FA. MFA requires the user to have more evidence to prove their identity to access an account.

Having two or more requirements is much more secure than requiring just one. IT professionals and end-users know that fraudsters can hack passwords easily.

While 2FA is better than nothing, adding another layer creates a bigger barrier between the hacker and the protected information. MFA streamlines the user experience for end-users and administrators in your company.

2FA vs. MFA: Which One is Better?

MFA is the most secure among the different authentication solutions. It’s not just about granting or denying access based on one or two factors; this is giving a degree of access from multiple possibilities based on various data points and factors from the login attempt, such as third-party hardware tokens, biometrics, and SMS.

When choosing an authentication solution that would fit your company’s needs, MFA deploys authentication policies that implement additional security while respecting your employees’ time and work. Adaptive MFA can also be implemented, which analyzes a user’s login credentials to determine how much access can be granted.

As additional factors and user risk profiles develop, so should access levels.

Going Above and Beyond

In a world where companies are shifting towards the web, the threat of breaches is growing in tandem. Considering the reputational and financial consequences of a cyberattack,  organizations must implement more complex authentication methods for their security.

Investing in reliable authentication solutions safeguards company and client data from unauthorized access. Not only does it better prevent theft and unauthorized access, but it also boosts your employee’s and clients’ confidence in seeing sensitive and confidential company data.

Improve your company’s security as we thoroughly walk you through our multi-factor authentication and cybersecurity solutions. Contact us today to get started.

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