Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security process whereby users must provide two different authentication factors to verify their identity and access their account. This process ensures better protection of both a user’s personal information, credentials, and other assets, while also improving the security around the resources the user can access.
Certainly, two-factor authentication provides a higher level of security than authentication methods that rely on only one authentication factor (single-factor authentication), where the user provides only one factor (usually a password or PIN). A 2FA method would require a user to provide not just a password or a PIN, but a second factor, ranging from a biometric factor (a facial, retinal, or fingerprint scan) to a possession factor (a one-time use code sent to a smartphone known to be in a user’s possession).
That extra layer of security means that even if an attacker knows a user’s password, they won’t be allowed access to their online account or mobile device. In fact, two-factor authentication has long been used to control who can access sensitive data and systems, and security professionals urge enabling two-factor authentication on all your online accounts, computers, and mobile devices.
Two-factor authentication can be used to strengthen the security of a phone, an online account, or even a door. It works by demanding two types of information from the user — the first factor is usually a password or personal identification number (PIN), while the second factor could be a fingerprint or a one-time code sent to your phone.