Glossary
August 16, 2023

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)? And Why Is It Important?

Multi-factor authentication (or MFA) adds an extra layer of protection to your authentication flow by requiring two or more forms of authentication, ensuring that only authorized users can access your application.

Skip to the Docs: Enable MFA in Userfront

You’ve probably used MFA before. If you’ve ever logged into a system with your password and then needed to provide a passcode texted to your phone, then you’re familiar with the process.

In this guide, we’ll explore the concept of multi-factor authentication, its benefits, and how to choose an authentication provider.

Understanding Multi-Factor Authentication: Three Primary Factors Used For MFA

Simply put, multi-factor authentication is a security process that requires users to provide two or more forms of identification before gaining access to an account or system. The three primary factors used in MFA are:

  1. Something you know: Such as a password, PIN, or answers to security questions.
  2. Something you have: Such as a smartphone, a physical token, or an access card.
  3. Something you are: Biometric traits like fingerprints, facial recognition, or iris scans.

By requiring at least two of these factors, MFA ensures that even if one factor is compromised, the attacker still needs to overcome additional layers of security to gain access.

Many people use the terms MFA and two-factor authentication interchangeably — and in some cases, they’re not wrong. Two-factor authentication falls into the same category as MFA; the primary difference is that 2FA requires only two authentication methods, while MFA can sometimes require three or more. Requiring more than two authentication methods is generally reserved for only the most sensitive information.

Here are some key benefits associated with implementing multi-factor authentication:

Enhanced Security

MFA reduces the risk of unauthorized access and identity theft. Even if one authentication factor is compromised — like a leaked password — an attacker cannot gain access without possessing a second factor.

Compliance

Many industries and regulatory frameworks mandate the use of MFA to protect sensitive information, making it essential for organizations to maintain compliance.

User-friendly Experience

Modern MFA solutions integrate seamlessly into user workflows, ensuring a smooth login process.

Choosing an Authentication Provider

Here are a few things to look out for when shopping around for authentication providers.

Integration with Existing Systems: MFA should integrate smoothly with your existing tech stack. Userfront, for example, can quickly add MFA via HTML, React, Vue, Angular, and more.

The Right Authentication Factors: The selection of factors should align with the level of security required. Consider user convenience while ensuring robust protection. Passwords are the most common first factor, but you can also choose SSO, clickable email links, TOTPs, etc.

Single Sign-On (SSO) Integration: Implementing MFA in conjunction with SSO can make your users' login experience more seamless. With Userfont, you can choose from social SSO providers like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn. We even offer SSO with Azure, Apple, GitHub, and Okta.

Common Misconceptions About Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

"MFA Is Only for Enterprises"

Organizations of all sizes benefit from MFA. Not only does it help protect your platform it can also protect your users.

"MFA Eliminates All Risks"

While MFA significantly improves security, it does not guarantee absolute protection. Regular security assessments and updates are still crucial to maintaining a secure platform.

"MFA Is Too Expensive and Complicated"

MFA is included in the free Userfront tier and we pride ourselves in removing the complexity of authentication — meaning you don’t need to be a cybersecurity expert to implement MFA.

How Userfront Helps Businesses Implement Multi-Factor Authentication for Customers

Many companies choose to require MFA to keep their users protected.

With Userfront, developers and non-developers alike can implement and update authentication forms using our authentication Toolkit. Admins can easily toggle on and off different authentication methods (including SSO), then pick a second authentication method like an SMS verification code or TOTP — whatever you need to suit your needs.

Learn how to add a form with our Toolkit Guide and turn on MFA.

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