Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) vs Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Key Differences

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) vs Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Key Differences
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) vs Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Key Differences

Organisations are looking for more robust Identity and Access Management (IAM) systems beyond a single-factor password authentication solution to enhance network security.

These systems are critical to protecting customer data, network assets, and sensitive network resources from malicious cyber attackers and data breaches.

And two of the most important IAM solutions are:

  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

In this blog, we’ll see what 2FA and MFA exactly are, how they differ from one another, and which is the best authentication solution for your organisation’s network security.

What is Two-Factor Authentication?

Two-Factor Authentication is an authentication system that uses two different authentication factors to verify a user’s identity.

Hence, Two-Factor Authentication meaning is that it needs users to present and pass through two authentication processes to access their account and network resources.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication?

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an authentication process that requires users to present multiple pieces of authentication information to verify their identity and access the network application or device.

The main aim behind the Multi-Factor Authentication device is to add multiple security layers to increase network security.

The common authentication factors used in the MFA strategy include the following:

  • Knowledge: something the user knows, such as an answer to a question or password
  • Possession: something the user owns, such as a token or security key
  • Inherence: something the user is, such as their behavioural trait, unique biometric, or retina scan

Thus, 2FA is nothing but the subset of MFA, but the Multi-Factor authentication advantages overpower 2FA because of the added security layers. But is that the only difference between 2FA vs MFA? Let’s find out.

Two-Factor Authentication vs Multi-Factor Authentication: Understanding The Difference

The difference between 2FA and MFA is quite simple. While 2FA utilises two authentication factors, MFA uses more than two to verify the user’s identity and grant user access.

This makes MFA much stronger and more secure than Two-Step Authentication.

For instance, three to four authentication factors are much more secure than two authentication factors. And the chances of hackers or attackers getting access to the user’s behavioural traits, fingerprints, or other factors are minimal.

Here’s further how the two authentication factors differ from each other.

Use of MFA in PCI-DSS

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) has nearly replaced the Two-Factor Authentication processes with Multi-Factor Authentication solutions.

However, this does not indicate that there is no longer any need for 2FA, and only three authentication factors are essential for authentication and PCI Compliance.

Many organisations need only two authentication factors for PCI Compliance. However, the more, the better—and three authentication factors are highly acceptable and recommended as a security standard for organisations.

User experience

Employees and end users don’t appreciate a slow, unreliable, and cumbersome authentication solution.

Remembering passwords and managing three different authentication solutions can hinder users’ productivity. They might start finding ways to speed up authentication or set up easy-to-guess passwords, compromising the network security and allowing hackers to get into your network and system easily.

While using 2FA authentication might seem viable here instead of three authentication factors, it depends on finding the right solution and MFA provider that provides an easy-to-use interface and streamlines the user experience.


While MFA Authentication meaning represents that it involves more than two authentication factors to validate a user’s identity, 2FA comprises only two authentication factors.

Your authentication method depends on your specific enterprise network needs and requirements. However, employing an MFA security solution is highly recommended.

If you want to deploy Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication, check out our InstaSafe solutions. We provide smart, secure, and authenticated SSO and MFA solutions to verify a user’s identity and ensure network security. Check our pricing or book a free demo today.