What’s the difference between MFA and 2FA?

Without MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) or 2FA (2-Factor Authentication), all it takes is one employee to use a terrible password. Then, suddenly, all your business’s sensitive information is out there on the internet.

Because if your company is like most others – over 50% in a recent survey – every employee you have has access to all sorts of data that you don’t necessarily want to be available to people outside your organisation.

But with 2FA or MFA, you’re much safer. Because it’s not just a single username and password protecting your business’s files.

Here’s everything you need to know about what 2FA and MFA mean and why they’re so vital for every modern business to have in place.

What Does MFA Stand For?

MFA stands for Multi-Factor Authentication. MFA means that multiple layers of authentication are needed to gain access to one of your accounts or services that you use.

Think of your standard username and password as one “level” or “layer” of authentication. That’s pretty simple to break in many cases.

You’ll have noticed your bank and increasing numbers of other companies you buy from wanting you to get codes from text messages or use other authenticating “factors”, as they’re known.

This is the reason why.

What does 2FA stand for?

2FA stands for 2-Factor Authentication. Unlike MFA, which tells you that there are multiple layers or authenticating factors required to access an account, 2FA tells you there are precisely two.

This should really be the absolute minimum you will want to have in place around your company. Unless you really like the idea of all of your business’s files and customer information being at risk, that is.

What is an authentication factor?

An authenticating factor is simply a piece of information that only a person who is authorised to access your accounts should have. They’re generally split into four general categories:

  1. Knowledge – these are things that only an authorised person should know. Something like a password or code, a PIN, or the answer to a secret question.
  2. Possession – these are things only an authorised person should have. They might need to have a passcard or smart card, a mobile phone, or some tech they wear.
  3. Inherence – these are things that are part of a specific authorised person. Something like a fingerprint, voiceprint, or retinal scan.
  4. Location or context – these are things that only an authorised person should do or be. The easiest example is “be in the office”, setting a geographical location as the authenticating factor.

2FA vs MFA

You can probably think of ways to get around any one of these factors. “Steal their keycard”, “work out their password”, or “sneak into the office somehow”.

That’s why 2FA is good, but MFA is so much better. If you mix and match the different types of factors, you bring the chances of an unauthorised person being able to access your accounts down to incredibly low levels.

That’s the only technical difference between MFA and 2FA – the number of layers of security we’re talking about and the level of protection your business has.

Why is MFA important?

In the modern world, one layer of authentication is not enough. Hackers can get through a single password. It only takes one lost device or one careless email response from your team for someone you really don’t want inside to have access to your system.

Your main takeaway from this article should be “implement multiple layers of security ASAP”.

That could certainly be 2FA. But if you really want to protect your business’s sensitive data, you’ll want to aim for more factors. And that means MFA, Multi-Factor Authentication.

Not sure whether you need 2FA or MFA? Just sure your business’s cybersecurity could use an update?

Let’s talk. Nearly 1000 businesses in and around Bristol trust Dial A Geek to help them with their tech.

Click here to set up a cost and commitment-free chat with Chief Geek Gildas Jones today. Let’s talk through your current set-up and see if it’s enough to protect you.