2FA (2-factor authentication) and MFA (multi-factor authentication)

2FA requires both knowledge (like a password) and something tangible (such as a hardware or software authentication system) to gain access to a protected computer system.


By some definitions, MFA takes that one step further by also requiring something that is unique to your physical being (like a fingerprint or retina or behavior) in order to authenticate an identity. However, the term MFA is often used when there are only two factors.  In traditional 2FA, the authentication device can be either hardware based (such as a token) or software based (such as a mobile app). The role of the authentication device is to generate a unique and temporary cryptographic code that must be input, in addition to a password, to gain access to a computer resource. Without the code, a hacker that has stolen a user's password will not be able to gain access to a protected system which makes 2FA a minimum security best practice.


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