Summary
Multi-factor authentication (MFA; two-factor authentication, or 2FA, along with similar terms) is an electronic authentication method in which a user is granted access to a website or application only after successfully presenting two or more pieces of evidence (or factors) to an authentication mechanism. MFA protects personal data—which may include personal identification or financial assets—from being accessed by an unauthorized third party that may have been able to discover, for example, a single password. A third-party authenticator (TPA) app enables two-factor authentication, usually by showing a randomly generated and frequently changing code to use for authentication. Authentication takes place when someone tries to log into a computer resource (such as a computer network, device, or application). The resource requires the user to supply the identity by which the user is known to the resource, along with evidence of the authenticity of the user's claim to that identity. Simple authentication requires only one such piece of evidence (factor), typically a password. For additional security, the resource may require more than one factor—multi-factor authentication, or two-factor authentication in cases where exactly two pieces of evidence are to be supplied. The use of multiple authentication factors to prove one's identity is based on the premise that an unauthorized actor is unlikely to be able to supply the factors required for access. If, in an authentication attempt, at least one of the components is missing or supplied incorrectly, the user's identity is not established with sufficient certainty and access to the asset (e.g., a building, or data) being protected by multi-factor authentication then remains blocked. The authentication factors of a multi-factor authentication scheme may include: Something the user has: Any physical object in the possession of the user, such as a security token (USB stick), a bank card, a key, etc. Something the user knows: Certain knowledge only known to the user, such as a password, PIN, PUK, etc.
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