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What is Multifactor Authentication (MFA)? Why We Need it and How Does it Work?

Published on Jul 04 2022

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a method of ensuring that internet users are who they claim they are by asking them to produce at least two pieces of proof to establish their identity.
Each piece of evidence must fit into one of three categories:

1. What they know
2. What they have
3. Or who they are

If one of the factors has been hacked by an unauthorized user, the use of several authentication factors provides a higher level of assurance regarding the user's identity. 

Although passwords are the most common means to validate your online identity, they are becoming increasingly insecure. Cyber criminals can exploit stolen passwords to get access to apps and enterprise systems, bypassing other security safeguards and causing havoc.

According to the 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, the most common method for obtaining data breaches is stealing login credentials.

Data thieves can utilize phishing attacks, brute force attacks, web app attacks, point-of-sale attacks, and even stolen hardware to get and access credentials.

How does MFA work?

The password is the most frequent example of this element, but it may also take the shape of a PIN or something that only you would know.

Some organizations tend to use knowledge-based authentication, such as security questions (e.g., "What is the name of your second pet?"). However, basic personal information can be discovered or stolen via research, phishing, and social engineering, making it less than ideal as a stand-alone authentication method.

Multi-factor authentication may be desired by some firms for all users, including employees and customers. It is extremely powerful when used in conjunction with a single sign-on (SSO) solution, which eliminates several passwords from the equation, enhancing security and increasing user experience.

To maximize employee and customer comfort, they may choose to skip MFA in low-risk scenarios as MFA could be a bit time consuming and hassle for the end users, however for enhanced protection in high-risk situations, such as for overly sensitive data or high-value transactions certain steps may be taken, for instance:

  1. A bank may let a consumer connect into his online account using only his username and password, but transactions must be approved using a second authentication factor.
  2. When an employee accesses an HR application from a coffee shop or another off-domain location, a business may desire a higher level of assurance that she is who she claims to be.
  3. When a vendor logs into their portal from a new device, a retailer can set up MFA to ensure it is not a cybercriminal trying to sneak in with a stolen password.

Types of MFA methods  


Location-based MFA usually looks up the user's IP address and, if possible, the user's location. This information can be used simply to deny user access if the user's location information does not match what is defined in the whitelist. Alternatively, it can be used as an additional form of authentication to verify the identity using other factors such as passwords and OTPs.

Risk-based authentication or adaptive authentication

When authenticating, adaptive authentication considers extra aspects such as context and behavior, and these values are frequently used to establish a level of risk to the login attempt. For example, a credential is logged in on a new device, or an unknown location on such cases it might be necessary to validate the access. Examples of risk-based authentication protocol are Google authenticator and Microsoft authenticator.

Some other MFA protocols are:

1.Passwords and PINs.
2.Personal belongings, such as a badge or a smartphone.
3.Biometrics (g., fingerprints, facial or voice recognition).


Technology will continue to evolve in the coming days; therefore, security must adapt to guard against cybercriminals as their methods become more advanced. Furthermore, single-layer security strategies are becoming ineffectual, as usernames and passwords may be quickly guessed using a variety of tools and techniques.
 Multi-factor authentication, however flawed, adds additional levels of system hardening to secure sensitive data and thwart hacker attempts.Therefore, its necessary to protect your company and your employees by spreading awareness about the multi authentication protocols. Employees should add 2FA to both their work as well as personal devices.

Eventually, good data security strategies can save your organization time and money.







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