Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a user's identity verification method that adds an extra layer of security along with passwords to ensure that the person logging into an application or website is the actual legitimate user instead of any attacker before granting the access.

Being an important part of identity and access management (IAM), MFA reduces several digital attacks such as unauthorized access, credential stuffing attacks, and personal data stealth. In this article, we will explain the working concept, types, and future of MFA. So let's begin:

How does MFA work?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a security technique that requires different types of information from users in order to gain access to an application or website account. This information is divided into three categories: Knowledge, possession, and inherence.

Knowledge refers to something that the user knows, possession refers to something that he owns, and inherence means something that he is. For example, when an employee login into the system from his office, they might receive a push notification on their mobile device that they can approve or deny. When an employee tries to log in from a different location, he might be asked to provide more secure information, like a fingerprint scan, or an inherence factor.

Types of MFA

The different types of MFA are discussed as follows:

  • Knowledge-based factors: It includes passwords, pins, or a security question before granting the system's access. This information is quite vulnerable as it can easily be guessed or stolen by hackers.

  • Possession-based factors: It includes mobile phones, key fobs, and credit cards along with other physical tokens. Users receive or store their login credentials on these devices so they need to be secured more than the knowledge-based factors.

  • Inherence factors: It includes facial features, fingerprints, behavior, and voice characteristics to authenticate a user. This is the most secure approach as every user possesses unique features and characteristics which can't be stolen or copied easily.

Single-factor Authentication Vs. two-factor authentication Vs. Multi-factor authentication

Organizations can deploy any type of authentication scheme to secure their networks such as a single-factor authentication scheme, two-factor authentication (2FA), or multi-factor authentication. These different authentication schemes show how security techniques have evolved over the years. Single-factor authentication was introduced as a standard, but when usernames and passwords alone could not provide sufficient security, 2FA was introduced. Since then, many innovative features are introduced that enhanced the security mechanisms, referred to as MFA to serve the world better.

Multi-Factor Authentication Methods

There are three methods of MFA:

  • Location-based Authentication: It uses the internet protocol (IP) address of the device and its geographical location to grant or deny access to an application or system.

  • Risk-based Authentication: Risk-based authentication (aka adaptive MFA) asks for different authentication information such as the user's location, device, and network.

  • Password-less authentication: It enhances the security of your business by including high assurance factors such as FIDO2.0/WebAuthn with other login contexts like location, risk, behavior, and device posture.

Benefits of MFA

MFA provides various benefits to organizations with security being the top one. Moreover, it helps them to fulfill extremely stringent data privacy regulations such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Future of MFA

MFA methods are expected to evolve in the coming years. The objective of MFA is to make the verification process easier for users and more secure for organizations. Biometric factors and password-less techniques are contributing immensely to enhance MFA. In addition, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms are being tested and implemented in authentication schemes to improve their attack detection and prevention capabilities.

How to choose MFA provider?

Every business has different requirements and needs depending upon its customer type. So, while choosing the best MFA provider for your business, you should consider which provider can meet your business requirements in the best possible way, help it to grow, and enhance user experience. The provider should ensure that the MFA scheme serving your business should be super compatible with your systems as well as deliver frictionless and enjoyable services to users.