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Multi-factor authentication means having extra checks to prove your identity

For example, you may need an authentication code from a text message in addition to your password to log into your account.

Having multi-factor authentication (MFA) gives you an extra layer of security

The many layers of authentication increases confidence that the person logging in is actually who they claim to be. MFA typically requires a combination of something a user knows (like a PIN or password), something a user has (like a smartcard or physical token) and something a user is (like a fingerprint or other biometric) to access an application.

Having two or more authentication factors increases your cyber security. It makes it harder for someone to access your files or account.

Some options for MFA include:

Physical token
A physical token that shows a time-limited one-time PIN on its screen

This is similar to an authenticator app, but it is a physical device. An example of a physical token is a device, similar to a dongle or USB, with a display that shows the code on the screen.

Security key
These can be used in addition to or in place of a password. They act like an electronic key.

This is a physical token or card that prompts the user to activate authentication processes. An example of a security key is an electronic building pass or a similar device to a USB drive like a Yubikey.

Biometrics or fingerprint
Using your fingerprint, face or iris scan to validate your login

An example of this is using Face ID or similar to login to accounts or unlock your phone.

Authenticator app
A mobile application that generates a random one-time PIN or password

These can be stand-alone mobile apps or part of existing apps. The Google or Microsoft Authenticator apps are examples of these.

SMS, email or voice call
A random code, phrase or link that you receive or enter to access a service

This is often referred to as a ‘one-time password’. An example is that before logging into a service like online banking you are sent an SMS code you then enter.

2 minute quiz

Think you know MFA? Challenge yourself with our quiz.

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