What are the Types of MFA? (& the Best MFA For Your Business)

What are the Types of MFA? (& the Best MFA For Your Business)
What are the Types of MFA? (& the Best MFA For Your Business)

We frequently need to create user accounts with usernames and passwords as we rely on web and mobile apps for various services in the modern world.

However, this reliance on passwords poses a risk of breaches due to weak, common, or reused passwords across multiple platforms. As remote work continues to remain a prevalent trend, the safety and security of our systems have become increasingly important.

This rings a bell for businesses to protect their digital assets while validating user identities to address these concerns. One such solution is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), which adds an extra layer of security on top of traditional login credentials.

Types of Multi-Factor Authentication

Email Authentication

One commonly used Multi-Factor Authentication method is email codes. With this approach, users authenticate themselves by clicking on an email magic link or using a one-time password (OTP) consisting of a six or four-digit code.

The MFA system sends the code to the user's primary email address. It helps verify the user's identity during the sign-in process.

Below are some points to consider when implementing the process of email authentication:

  • Email transmission may not always be secure, allowing unauthorised parties to intercept unencrypted messages. To mitigate this risk, use shorter challenge lifetimes for email magic links and OTP codes.
  • Email messages might end up in users' spam or junk folders. Here, it is best to remind users to check these folders if they are still waiting to receive the email authentication message in their primary inbox.
  • Networking issues can cause delays in email delivery. In such cases, users may need to request another email authentication message if the original one arrives after the challenge lifetime has expired.
  • Email can also serve as a means of account recovery, allowing users to set an expiration time for security tokens to enhance the overall security of their accounts.

SMS or Text Authentication

This type of authentication is relatively straightforward. Once a user signs in, they receive a text message containing an SMS authentication code.

To access the respective app or website, they must enter that code. You have likely encountered this process when logging into platforms like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other similar services.

SMS authentication operates as a possession-based factor, validating a user's identity based on something they possess, such as their mobile phone. This additional layer of security enhances the login process.

Unauthorised access to an account would require bad actors to steal a user's password and phone.

Biometric Verification

Among the types of authentication discussed above, biometrics is considered both the most secure and the most user-friendly.

Biometrics offers enhanced security because it is the only authentication factor that provides certainty to organisations that the individual on the other end of an internet connection is indeed the person they claim to be.

Unlike passwords or devices, which can be shared or stolen, one's physical biometric attributes, such as their face, cannot be easily replicated. Biometric face authentication ensures that the identity is accurate and trustworthy.

Furthermore, biometrics is highly usable due to the inherent nature of always having your unique physical attributes with you. Unlike passwords that can be forgotten or devices that can be misplaced, your face is a constant and easily accessible identifier.

Also, implementing passive biometrics can make the authentication process effortless for users, enhancing its usability and convenience.

Physical Key

While the preceding forms of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) have been virtual, a physical key is a tangible object that can be held.

Users will insert the physical key into a device or computer to gain access to information. Companies often provide physical keys to their most valuable users, particularly for securing sensitive accounts and data such as banking, insurance, and investment information.

Considered one of the most secure MFA methods, a physical key offers robust protection. But, it is only suitable for some due to certain limitations. Firstly, it can be costly, making it impractical for businesses with budget constraints to secure all team members' email accounts.

Additionally, since it is a physical object, there is a risk of misplacement and loss. Although the physical key is typically expensive, it serves as a reminder that besides security, the ease of access should also be considered when selecting an MFA option.

Authenticator Applications

Authenticator apps operate using Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP) technology. This algorithm generates a unique code at regular intervals, typically every 30 seconds.

The code relies on the current time and a shared secret key between the authenticator app and the service or website being accessed.

These apps provide two additional authentication options. Users can receive a notification to approve or decline access attempts to their accounts.

Or, they can enter the randomly changing authentication code displayed by third-party authenticator (TPA) applications like Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator.

This code, frequently refreshed, must be entered after the user's username and password to access the desired system or service.


MFA is highly preferred due to its advanced security against potential intruders. With only a password, an attacker must possess a single attack skill and execute a successful attack to impersonate the victim.

With MFA, the attacker would require multiple attack skills and simultaneous successful attacks to imitate the victim, making it significantly more challenging. This makes MFA a resilient solution for login purposes.

InstaSafe offers a Multi-Factor Authentication solution that includes granular policies, enabling the implementation of policies at the user, application, or globally through an admin dashboard.

Additionally, it provides self-service capabilities, empowering users to choose and update their authentication controls according to their preferences.Book a free demo with us to experience the benefits of an intuitive, comprehensive dashboard for administrators.

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