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Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Definition: Multi-Factor Authentication is a security mechanism that requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a resource such as an application, online account, or a VPN. Unlike Single Factor Authentication, MFA requires multiple proofs of identity across different categories of credentials.

The use of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) significantly enhances security by adding layers of defence against unauthorised access to systems and data. Within the field of cyber security, MFA is an important strategy for ensuring that a user is who they claim to be by requiring the combination of two or more independent credentials: something the user knows (like a password), something the user has (such as a security token or mobile phone), and something the user is (biometrics, for example).

These multiple factors of authentication help to protect against common security breaches such as phishing, social engineering, and password attacks, making it harder for attackers to gain access to sensitive information. MFA has become increasingly popular as businesses and individuals alike seek heightened security in light of rising cyber threats.

Key Characteristics:

  • Layered Defence: MFA adds extra layers of security by requiring multiple forms of proof of identity.
  • Diverse Factors: A mixture of something you know, have, and are, which makes it tough for attackers to compromise.
  • Reduced Fraud Risk: MFA mitigates the risk of compromised passwords leading to unauthorised access.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many regulations and standards recommend or require MFA to protect sensitive data.


  • Real-World Example: An online banking system that requires a password and then sends an OTP to your mobile phone is using MFA.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: A healthcare worker needs to access patient records. After entering their password, the system requires them to also scan their fingerprint, thereby ensuring secure access through MFA.

Related Terms:

  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): A subset of MFA, which uses exactly two distinct forms of identification.
  • One-Time Password (OTP): A single-use code often used as one component in a MFA setup.
  • Biometrics: Physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, that can be used as a security credential in MFA.
  • Single Factor Authentication: A verification process that relies on a singular credential, such as a password

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