websights 2FA, MFA and adaptive authentication: Differences & Key benefits

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2FA, MFA and adaptive authentication: what are the differences?

Passwords alone used to be the go-to security measure for protecting important data and documents but not anymore. This is because passwords only offer a single layer of security, and once this security layer is compromised, access is granted, even to unauthorized persons. Hence, the need for security measures like 2FA, MFA, and Adaptive MFA.

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What is 2FA?

2FA stands for ” Two Factor Authentication “. It is a security measure that presents two layers of security for the user’s data and documents. It is a sub-type of MFA (Multi-factor authentication). To access this security, two authentication factors that are unique to the user are required. These two factors include:

Something the user knows:

This factor would be generated about what the user knows like password, username, PIN, and simple secret questions like favorite dish, favorite color, former address etc. This factor mostly serves as the first layer of security for the user. After this layer is successfully accessed, the second factor comes into play.

Something the user owns/have:

This factor would be generated about what the user possesses at the moment. It could be a phone, a laptop, or a key card. This factor provides a second layer of security for the user.

 

So, once a user wants to log in to an application or access a document that is backed by 2FA, the user accesses the first security layer via password, after which a PIN or OTP or a call is sent to the user’s device to grant the second layer of security access.

2FA allows to strengthen the security and restrict access to a user’s data. This way, even if the password is compromised, access would still be denied because access to the second layer of security depends on the user’s device.

According to Google, 100% of automated bots, 99% of mass phishing attacks and 90% of targeted attacks were prevented by some form of 2FA. This shows some effectiveness of two-step authentication in preventing cyber attacks.¹

Despite these results, Amnesty International reports cases of online fraud where hackers manage to bypass the 2FA system without involving the user, using zero click and man-in-the-middle attacks.²

This indicates that 2FA is not infallible. As a matter of fact, as Gartner points out, most existing “2FA” tools are really just “+1FA” tools, adding a single extra factor to an existing password. This leads to a poor user experience for relatively little gain in security. However, it still works better at providing stronger security than passwords alone.

What is MFA ?

MFA stands for ” Multi-factor Authentication “. It is a security measure that presents many layers of security, usually more than two. To access this security, two or more authentication factors that are peculiar to the user are required. These factors are:

Something the user knows (knowledge factor):

This factor indicates something that the user knows like passwords, a PIN code, usernames, and security questions that only the user can know.

Something the user owns (possession factor):

This factor indicates possession of the user like phone, or laptops

Something that the user is (inherence factor) :

This factor is something that is part of the user; something that the user must have inherited and is peculiar to the user alone. Examples are fingerprints and iris scan

 

A user who wants to access a file or application backed by MFA needs to go through more than two layers of security. These extra security layers make it even harder, if not impossible, to be accessed by an outsider.  Event Microsoft confirms that MFA blocks 99.9% of cyber attacks.

And last but not least, true native multi-factor authentication can deliver a passwordless journey to your end-user. Something that can’t be done using 2FA.

That’s why pure players like TrustBuilder encourage the use of MFA to secure the business, but not just any technology.

TrustBuilder can provide you with a top-notch solution that protects the identities of your workforce and/or customer, prevents the risk of losing confidential documents, keeps cyber hacking at bay by denying illegal access, and prevents fraudulent fund transfers, malware, and other forms of cyber crimes that are detrimental to your business or organization.

What is adaptive authentication?

Adaptive MFA stands for “Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication”. It is also called risk-based authentication. Adaptive MFA is a way of using MFA that considers the behavioral pattern and contextual information associated with how the user accesses a secured file. From the behavioral pattern of the user, Adaptive MFA analyzes the information and predicts the level of the risk factor. It considers the following factors:

  • Place of access (location)
  • Time of access
  • Day of the week
  • The device of access, etc.
  • Source of the IP address

So, if a user always accesses a data or file on his laptop (device of access) and one day, a login attempt is made via a phone, the Adaptive MFA identifies this as a risk factor and in other to further verify that it’s the user, can present an extra layer of security. Meanwhile, if the same login is made via the usual laptop, an extra security layer may not be presented or requested.

Such is the same for the other factors mentioned above too. This indicates that Adaptive MFA comes into play only when a risk factor is perceived i.e when there are suspicions of an unauthorized entry. Such is the same for the other factors mentioned above too. 

This indicates that Adaptive MFA comes into play only when a risk factor is perceived i.e when there are suspicions of an unauthorized entry.

Adaptive MFA works better in strengthening the security of the user’s data because it studies the user’s behavioral pattern in the course of access, and uses it to prevent external intrusion.

While most adaptive solutions on the market are only just role-based, TrustBuilder can provide you with an access control based on behavioral and contextual attributes.

What are the differences between 2FA, MFA and adaptive MFA ?

A real difference when it comes to security

2FA uses only two authentication factors to proffer security, whereas MFA and Adaptive MFA can use two or more authentication factors providing a higher level of security.

To sum up, 2FA comes with some security concerns compared to MFA. As for adaptive authentication it grants user access based on the risk defined and prompts MFA accordingly.

A real asset in your user’s login journey

From an end-user perspective, going for an MFA or an adaptive solution can be a real plus. Today’s users are very demanding in their digital journey and are looking for a simple, fast, and easy experience.

With a passwordless and adapted journey, MFA and adaptive technologies are a great way to boost productivity and/or conversion, whether it being your workforce or your customers accesses that you are seeking to protect.

Adaptive MFA stands for “Adaptive Multi-Factor Authentication”. It is also called risk-based authentication. Adaptive MFA is a way of using MFA that considers the behavioral pattern and contextual information associated with how the user accesses a secured file.

From the behavioral pattern of the user, Adaptive MFA analyzes the information and predicts the level of the risk factor. It considers for instance the place of access (location), but also the time, day, device and source of the IP address.

While standard MFA is secure, it does not allow for the analysis and prediction of risk that adaptive MFA does. Indeed, adaptive MFA will request more information/evidence to prove the user’s identity than when the risk of breach is higher. As a result, the login journey can be more flexible and time-saving where the risk is lower.