Definition

multifactor authentication (MFA)

Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security system in which more than one form of authentication is implemented to verify the legitimacy of a transaction. The goal of MFA is to create a layered defense and make it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access a computer system or network.

Multifactor authentication is achieved by combining two or three independent credentials: what the user knows (knowledge-based authentication), what the user has (security token or smart card) and what the user is (biometric verification). Single-factor authentication (SFA ), in contrast, only requires knowledge the user possesses. Although password-based authentication is well-suited for website or application access, it is not secure enough for online financial transactions.

In the United States, interest in multifactor authentication has been driven by regulations such as the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) directive calling for multifactor authentication for Internet banking transactions.

This was last updated in October 2012
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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