2FA vs MFA: Which One Should You Use in 2024?

Reading time: 9 min read
Darko Jacimovic
Written by
Darko Jacimovic

Updated · Jan 02, 2024

Darko Jacimovic
SEO Specialist | Joined April 2023 | LinkedIn
Darko Jacimovic

Darko founded WhatToBecome.com, a comprehensive career guidance platform for beginners in various po... | See full bio

Florence Desiata
Edited by
Florence Desiata


Florence Desiata
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Florence Desiata

Florence is a dedicated wordsmith on a mission to make technology-related topics easy-to-understand.... | See full bio

Techjury is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Gone are the days when your password alone could prevent motivated hackers from accessing your account. In this age of technology, cybercriminals have perfected their way of bypassing a person’s password.

You’ll need the help of technologies like Two-factor authentication (2FA) and Multi-factor authentication (MFA). 

2FA and MFA are more secure forms of authentication than single-factor security, where you need only a username and password to verify your identity to log in. There's a high chance you're already using them as businesses have begun implementing these tools since cyberattacks have become rampant.

In this article, learn the concepts of 2FA and MFA, the types of authentication, and their differences.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  • 2FA and MFA are electronic authentication methods that grant access to websites or applications only after a user presents evidence to an authentication server.
  • The most popularly used authentication factors are Knowledge (something you know), Possession (something you have), and Inherence Factors (something you are).
  • 2FA is a type of MFA that only uses two types of authentication factors. Meanwhile, MFA uses two or more.
  • MFA is more difficult to crack, so it’s a more robust security solution compared to 2FA.

Differences between 2FA and MFA

2FA and MFA are commonly used methods to keep websites or apps secure. In 2020, over 80% of hacking breaches involved brute force or using stolen credentials like passwords. As a result, more companies turned to 2FA and MFA technologies to neutralize the risks associated with compromised credentials.

The main difference between these two methods is the number of factors needed for a successful authentication. 2FA requires two factors to be presented during the authentication process, while multi-factor authentication needs two or more.

3 Common Types of Authentication

To understand 2FA and MFA better, you need to be familiar with the three most used authentication factors.

nfographic on the three types of authentication.

Something You “Know” or the Knowledge Factor

The Knowledge Factor involves any piece of information (or, in this case, any piece of knowledge) you can remember. After that, you must be able to type, say, do, perform, or recall that factor when needed.

This factor commonly involves the following knowledge-based authentication:

  • Passwords. These are codes you already knew before the authentication took place. Passwords consist of a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Security questions. These are questions you previously set up yourself. Some sites allow users to put up multiple questions to identify them better. An example is when you set up your security question as “What is the name of your favorite pet?”
  • Personal Identification Numbers (PINs). PINs are numerical strings used for electronic financial transactions. They typically accompany payment cards and are utilized to withdraw money from an ATM.

🔒 Security Note:

Out of the three factors, Knowledge Factors are the most vulnerable due to human error. In 2023, experts found that 52% of internet users utilize the same password for multiple accounts. Reusing passwords makes them more likely to be cracked.

Still, the Knowledge Factor is a necessary step in the authentication process. The best way to use this factor is to formulate a strong password and have better cybersecurity habits.

Something You “Have” or the Possession Factor

This factor requires you to provide physical evidence of a device previously verified to be your property. The device must also be registered to the system as a token for authentication. 

Common examples of Possession Factors are:

  • A mobile phone for SMS authentication. In this authentication factor, you verify your identity by inputting a code sent to your mobile phone via SMS.

  • Any device for email token authentication. The email authentication mechanism lets you enter your email address upon signing up. Then, you’ll receive an initial email with a link to confirm your account’s creation. As an authentication factor, this method sends a PIN to your email address during log-in.

  • An app on a smartphone or tablet for software token authentication. An organization prompts a One-Time PIN code (OTP) to a software token installed on your device. The application sends you a notification regarding the authentication, which you must approve within a limited time frame. Most apps generate a new PIN every few minutes, making it difficult for black hat hackers to compromise.

Something You “Are” or the Inherence Factor

This factor refers to any biological traits you have that are confirmable for logging in. Inherence factors are the metrics you intrinsically own, like biometrics. You can verify your identity by presenting evidence inherent to your unique features.

💡 Did You Know?

According to Cico’s Trusted Access Report, 81% of all smartphones have enabled biometrics in 2022. This occurrence shows that MFA is trending, as it promotes better online privacy and security.

The Inherence Factor includes the following biometrics:

  • Fingerprints and hand geometry. Hand geometry recognition is considered to be the oldest biometric technology. It involves using your palm’s and fingers’ unique structures to confirm your identity.

  • Retina and iris scans. This biometric technique maps the detailed patterns of your retina using visible light. At the same time, iris recognition uses camera technology with subtle infrared illumination to acquire images of your iris.

  • Facial recognition. This type of biometric data maps, analyzes, and confirms the identity of your face in a photograph, video, or live. Facial recognition is commonly used in smartphones, especially in the latest iPhones. However, it can be inconsistent when comparing faces at different angles. That’s why some technologies prevent spoofing, like ID R&D’s passive facial liveness detection.

  • Voice recognition. Also known as speaker recognition or voice printing, this factor examines your speech patterns. A voice recognition device may take one or more speech samples to create a unique digital template to identify the user.

What is 2FA?

As mentioned, Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an account access security approach that requires you to present only two authentication factors. 

2FA works by having the first factor, a password, verified by an authentication server. Once the user meets this requirement, they qualify for the second factor. The authentication server then sends a code to the user’s device, initiating a second-factor authentication. Finally, the user inputs the code sent to them and confirms their identity.

Since cyberattacks are becoming more rampant, recent years have seen an increase in 2FA usage. One of the reasons is that 2FA isn’t just a passive cybersecurity process. It actively involves users, helping them maintain their own digital safety.

Who uses 2FA?

2FA statistics show that employees in education businesses own the biggest chunk of the 2FA user base, with 33%. Meanwhile, the rest of the 2FA users belong to the following industries:


Percentage that uses 2FA

Banking and Finance








Moreover, here’s how different industries use 2FA:

  • Banking. Banks use 2FA to protect against hacking attempts. 2FA also confirms your identity when completing certain transactions or changes. 
  • Social Media. Large social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn use 2FA to protect billions of user data worldwide.
  • Media. 2FA lets journalists secure their passwords to avoid losing access to their social media accounts. An unauthorized access may cause data breaches that need money, resources, and time to remedy.
  • Government. 2FA assists federal agencies in implementing zero-trust policies for the millions of end users who need access to government-supported services.
  • Higher Education. Higher education institutions are prime targets for hacking and malicious security breaches. Their systems contain sensitive user data they must protect. That’s why they have to use 2FA or MFA.
  • Healthcare. Two-factor authentication securely lets physicians access patient data and other sensitive Personally Identifiable Information (PII).
  • Energy. As energy companies need to secure data on sensitive projects, 2FA helps protect their system by securing user endpoint devices.
  • Ridesharing. 2FA assists ridesharing apps in securing the endpoint devices of their employees, regardless of location. It authenticates employees before they gain access to internal information systems.
  • Retail. Common attacks targeting retailers are credential phishing and malware. As a security solution in this trillion-dollar retail industry, 2FA helps retail companies authenticate users' identities.

📝  Note:

These industries have something in common: protecting their systems against data breaches. It costs millions of dollars to straighten out data breaches. Some of these cyberattacks even leave lasting impacts that no money can fix.

What is MFA?

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires users to present two or more types of authentication. These authentication factors could reach 4 or 5, depending on the level of security needed. 

MFA comes after the traditional password-based login. When logging in, you initially input your username and password. It’s only then MFA comes into play. 

The idea behind MFA is to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to access any information and data within a network.

📈 Market Trends:

Statistics show that 57% of large organizations see MFA as an essential security tool. More companies are employing MFA because of its effectiveness. In fact, according to Microsoft, MFA stops nearly 100% of account hacks.

Who uses MFA?

MFA increases an organization’s access and authentication complexity. It is commonplace for businesses engaging in high-risk transactions like the Bank of America and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to use variants of MFA.

Authoritative sources encourage using MFA, including the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Other industries that utilize MFA are:

  • eCommerce: MFA can secure your business accounts against threats like credential thefts and takeovers.

  • Finance: MFA benefits financial institutions in many ways. It's a simple way to blend security with digital banking by confirming that you are accessing your account.

  • Healthcare: With MFA, healthcare workers can use a badge to tap in and out of work quickly. It can also protect patients' and hospitals' sensitive medical data.

  • Government: MFAs are commonly used by government websites to combat hackers. Specifically, The US Department of Defense uses biometrics, access cards, and behavioral analysis.

2FA and MFA have the same purpose and are often used interchangeably. However, they differ considerably. Understanding their differences is essential to deciding which fits your organization best.

Which is Better: 2FA or MFA?

2FA uses two authentication factors to verify and authorize your access attempt, whereas multi-factor authentication uses two or more of these checks. This critical distinction makes MFA a more robust solution than 2FA, though just as easy to implement. Hence, opting for an MFA instead is best to ensure maximum security.

Wrapping Up

You can always do something to protect your data in today's public digital sphere– one way is to use an authentication method.

2FA and MFA are trendy cybersecurity tools that experts recommend to protect your website or app. However, before implementing either one, it's essential to consider the security risks facing your organization. Use them to decide the level of authentication needed to protect your digital assets.


Which authentication factor is strongest?

The inherence factor is the most challenging type of data for a hacker to steal. It is said to be the strongest and most reliable among all authentication factors.

What is the difference between MFA and SSO?

SSO, or Single Sign-On, is an authentication tool where you only need one login to access a suite of services or applications. Meanwhile, MFA ensures that only authorized users have access to websites or apps. It focuses on adding a layer of security, while the purpose of SSO is for the convenience of user logins.

What is the weakness of multi-factor authentication?

MFA is effective, but its weakest link is the vulnerable user, who can be tricked into downloading malware through phishing and many other nefarious cybercriminal methods.


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter
Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published.