2FA vs. MFA vs. AMFA

Because cyberattacks are now more sophisticated than ever, it’s no longer sufficient to protect sensitive information with just a username and password. Instead, your business should look to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) to provide additional layers of security for your users. Read more about the differences between 2FA vs. MFA, as well as adaptive multi-factor authentication (AMFA).

image of a laptop with "enter code" here on the screen and  a mobile phone displaying a  5-digit code

What is 2FA? 

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a process which requires two steps in order to verify a user. Rather than relying on just a password, a 2FA solution asks for an additional piece of information in order to gain access to an account. This second factor can come from one of the following categories:

  • Something the user knows: This could be a personal identification number (PIN), a secondary password, an answer to a security question, or a specific keystroke pattern.

  • Something the user has: This could be a user’s smartphone, a credit card, an email, a physical token that generates a code (known as a hard token), or a virtual soft-ware based security token (known as a soft token).

  • Something the user is: This is a more complex form of 2FA and relies on a fingerprint or other biometric to identify the user.

Most forms of  2FA involve a one-time password (OTP). With solutions like the Vonage Verify API, an SMS message, WhatsApp message, phone call, or email delivers the OTP to a user’s device. The user then inputs that OTP to gain access to the online resource in question.

For businesses just getting started with authentication, a 2FA solution like Vonage Verify API can be a wise choice. Relative to other authentication solutions, 2FA is more cost efficient and easier to set up on the backend. Likewise, because end users are likely already comfortable receiving text messages, phone calls, or emails, it means that they’re more likely to comply with the authentication solution requirements. This is a relatively easy and quick way to add another layer of security to your business’s online touchpoints.

What is MFA? 

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) requires the user to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to an online resource. Additional authentication factors make account access more secure. Accordingly, 2FA is a form of MFA. When comparing 2FA vs. MFA, it’s important to note that all types of 2FA fall under the MFA umbrella. Conversely, though, not all MFA is 2FA.

What is AMFA?

Adaptive multi-factor authentication (AMFA) uses contextual information and business rules to determine which authentication factors to apply in a particular situation for a given user. As the name implies, the MFA solution “adapts” based on the circumstances for the user at the time of login. An Identity Service Provider (IDP) system will select the right authentication factors depending on a user’s risk profile and behavior as part of an ongoing process, instead of applying risk evaluation and elevation only once.

While AMFA is a more sophisticated form of authentication than 2FA or MFA, it’s also more costly and more complex for businesses to set up. AMFA can be a good option for businesses that have the budget to invest in a more complex authentication solution and particularly for businesses looking to protect highly sensitive data. Because AMFA uses a broad set of factors to automatically assess which authentication touchpoints are needed, it offers an intersection between a good user experience for the end user combined with greater layers of protection to access online resources. But that comes at a cost — AMFA is perhaps the most expensive authentication solution, and it still requires the use of MFA and 2FA resources to make up part of the system.

What are the Pros and Cons of 2FA, MFA, and AMFA?

Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of each authentication solution.

 

Pros

Cons

2FA

  • Simple and effective
  • User-friendly
  • Scalable
  • Limited to one authentication factor

MFA

  • Offers additional layers of security

  • Time consuming for users
  • Less user-friendly than 2FA

 

AMFA

  • Good user experience
  • Adaptable
  • Customizable

  • Expensive and time consuming to implement
  • Cannot stand alone without 2FA or MFA

How Can Businesses Get Started with an Authentication Solution?

Whatever type of authentication solution your business may choose, taking the first step to implement additional layers of security beyond just usernames and passwords is a necessity. If you’re looking for a quick start, consider an offering like the Vonage Verify API. All-in-one 2FA solutions like the Verify API can offer your business a verification system that can seamlessly deliver OTPs to users across channels. It’s also a cost-effective and efficient way to start adding extra security to your business’s online resources.

Ready to better protect your business using 2FA? Explore Vonage two-factor authentication solutions now.

Rachel Weinberg
By Rachel Weinberg Content Manager, Communications APIs

Rachel Weinberg is the Content Manager at Vonage supporting the Communications APIs business. She is an experienced content strategist, writer, and editor with a passion for grammar and the Oxford comma. Rachel earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and her Masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University. When she’s not working on content strategy, Rachel is a freelance theater critic in Chicago and dedicates her time to seeing live theater at venues across the city.

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