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2FA vs MFA - Understanding The Key Differences

In the era of high cyber hacking and data theft, it’s foolish to bank only on the strong password generation policy to keep digital assets protected. Two or multiple-fold approaches are required to ensure that data saved on the cloud and inside the digital devices is saved. 

When we talk about the safety of digital infrastructure or IT network, two-factor and multiple-factor methods are two names that come to mind instantly. Clubbed with other IT security practices, these 2 authentication tactics helps in safeguarding the sensitive data from intruders. 

Are they same? Which one is better among 2FA vs MFA? Read the post to have clarity on them quickly. We have tried to leave you with no doubts.

2FA vs MFA - Understanding The Key Differences

What is Authentication? 

Basically, it’s the procedure to check a user’s authority or identity when he tries/requests to enter any data/digital asset/device. Authentication involves verifying the claims he is making regarding his reliability and authenticity regarding a scenario/system.

In the times of remote work that have created multiple access points to data/devices, it’s not sensible to have faith in anyone and provide access instantly. It must validate the user’s credentials as well as identity to prevent any data loss or mishandling of assets.

There are 3 main factors that are used for information cross-checking. They will help you in understanding 2FA vs MFA too. These are:

  1. Knowledge

The identity-confirmation process tries to find out what information a user has related to the intended data/device. For instance, if you’re trying to open a laptop and you’re the owner of that laptop or someone who is authorized to use that laptop then you must be aware of the password, used by the admin. Or, they could be a security question’s answer in case you have forgot the login details.

  1. Possession

Authenticated personals are provided with a physical or digital asset to access to use a particular database or device. It could be a security key, token, smart card, and lock, in case of physical property.

  1. Inherence

Verifying the distinct traits that the users already/naturally own is useful in authentication. It includes biometric data like retina scans and fingerprints. As every individual owns these traits distinctively, identity-checking is generally done through them. At times, behavioral traits - due to their uniqueness per person - are also used.

Now that you have learned the basics, let us help you get acquainted with MFA and 2FA.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) 

It clubs two or more two ways to make sure that digital assets are not in the wrong/unauthorized hands. Along with login details, the intended user has to provide crucial details like biometric details, PIN, smart card, and many more, before seeking full access to aimed devices/data. It’s generally used for data/devices of high importance.


Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) 

It simply verifies user’s credibility in 2 steps/processes. It clubs credential verification with another single authentication factor. It could be OTP, SMS, security questions, email verification, social profile login, and so on.


Which one is Secure?

This is probably the most provocative question about 2FA vs MFA. IT security experts have to do enough brainstorming to understand which option is best in terms of security. Well, as one understands that MFA allows you to use more than two authentications, it seems more secure but that’s far from reality.

MFA is secured only when secured factors are used. For instance, an MFA strategy using login info, security questions, and PIN isn’t as strong as 2FA using login and biometrics details.

So, one has to choose the factors wisely to make the 2FA or MFA secure. Adding too many security layers can also lead to confusion. While two security layers are easy to manage. Basically, it is hard to predict which one is stronger as it demands how these two are enforced and used.

MFA vs 2FA - Main differences

Multi-factor authentication vs 2FA is a detailed topic to understand as both these authentication shares great similarities. But, they both are not the same. Let’s have a look at key differences.

2FA uses more than 1 method for user credibility-confirmation. Hence, it’s not a 1FA that involves just 1 method or factor. MFA is anything that uses 1+ factors. Hence, 2FA is also MFA, but the reverse is not true.

In 2FA, the second factor used for authentication is generally dependent on login credentials and is based on convenience. For instance, if a security question is asked after the login, it would be somehow related to the login details. But, MFA demands other factors to be independent. For instance, biometric details have nothing to do with login details. Similar is the case with a security token or smart card.

When it comes to complexity, using 2FA is easy. End-user only has to provide two details to access the device/asset/data. Its management is also seamless for the admins. MFA is a tough nut to crack for both the admins and the end-users. Admins have to gather so much assorted information to build an MFA profile for different users. End-users have to enter multiple details before accessing an asset. 

Human errors and mistakes tend to be less in the case of 2FA. People have to remember and provide only two factors. MFA asks for multiple factors. Some might get confused and forget details like the security question’s answer, PIN, or token.

In Summary

Whether you go with 2FA or MFA, you will have improved security than single-factor authentication. They both are great when it comes to protecting data and digital assets, provided you play smart. So, learn more about them and ensure diligent implementation to make the most out of them. Hope this blog helped you to know more about 2FA vs MFA.



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February 26, 2024
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