In today´s entry, we will explain what a multifactor authentication is and we will provide some examples.

To do so, let´s start by understanding the most common authentication factors:

  • Knowledge factors: It is the most common form of authentication. It is something the user knows: a password, a PIN, a username, etc.
  • Possession or physical factors: these factors are “physical things” possessed by the user. Some examples are: a key, a smartcard or a security token.
  • Inherent or biometric factors: this category includes personal attributes such as fingerprint scanning, retinal scan, speech recognition or behavioral biometrics (typing patterns or mouse movements, among others).

By combining two or more of the above factors, we will have multi-factor authentication (MFA). If we only combine two factors, it will be called two-factor authentication (2FA). An example of this would be:  Password (Knowledge Factor) + SMS code received on the mobile phone (Physical factor).

Why two-factor authentication is important? Why passwords alone are not enough?

Passwords became the preferred authentication method due to their low cost or easy implementation. But the growing number and sophistication of brute-force attacks, phishing attacks, dictionary attacks or the rainbow tables, have made it necessary to add an additional level of security. The objective of combining independent factors is to reduce the risk of the other factors when one of them is compromised.

Is there any other multifactor authentication method apart from 2FA?

Yes, there is. For those environments that require an even higher level of security, three-factor authentication (or three-step authentication) can be applied. 3FA schemes combine Physical tokens + Passwords + Biometric data.

If, on top of that, we added geolocation, we would have a four-factor authentication method. (4FA) And finally, five-factor authentication methods (5FA), would include all the above plus the factor time.

Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up on the latest updates and remember that you can also subscribe to our blog!