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Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Definition: Two-Factor Authentication is a subset of Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) that enhances security by requiring two distinct types of credentials before granting access to an account or system. Typically, this involves something the user knows (like a password) and something the user has (such as a mobile device).

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) is a critical component in the cyber security strategy of an organisation or system as it significantly decreases the chance of a security breach. Unlike Single Factor Authentication, where only a password may be required, 2FA introduces an additional step in the verification process. Even if one factor (usually the password) is compromised, an attacker still needs the second factor to gain access, making unauthorised entry considerably more difficult.

2FA is commonly used in online banking, corporate VPNs, and other scenarios where sensitive data is being accessed. It is considered a balance between added security and user convenience. However, while 2FA adds an extra level of security, it’s still not as robust as Multi-Factor Authentication which may include additional factors.

Key Characteristics:

  • Enhanced Security: 2FA adds a significant security layer compared to SFA, reducing the likelihood of unauthorised access.
  • Two Distinct Elements: Requires at least two different authentication methods from separate categories.
  • User-Friendly: Offers a reasonable balance between security and convenience for the user.
  • Widely Adopted: Commonly utilised across various industries, especially where sensitive data is involved.


  • Real-World Example: A user logging into their email account is required to enter a password and then confirm their identity through a push notification sent to their smartphone.
  • Hypothetical Scenario: An employee accesses the company’s intranet. After inputting their password, they are prompted to enter a code generated by their authenticator app.

Related Terms:

  • Authentication: The process of verifying the identity of a user or device.
  • One-Time Password (OTP): A code that’s valid for a single login session or transaction, used in the 2FA process.
  • Authentication App: A software application that generates security codes for 2FA, independent of SMS or email.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): A security mechanism that requires users to provide two or more verification factors to gain access to a resource
  • Single Factor Authentication: A verification process that relies on a singular credential, such as a password.

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