Acronyms, abbreviations, and jargon are prevalent in any industry but perhaps more so in IT. New technologies with very long (and sometimes confusing) names are released on a seemingly daily basis, making it that much harder to stay on top of things. Acronyms can make it easy for professionals to communicate but, on the flip side, can leave everyone else confused.
One area in which acronyms are plentiful is user authentication, with 2FA and MFA being two such acronyms that are so closely related they can be easy to mix up. In this article, to clear some murky waters, we will look at both of these acronyms, what they mean, and the difference between them.
Both 2FA and MFA are authentication processes that use two or more factors for user authentication.
2FA stands for 2-factor authentication and, as the name suggests, uses two factors to authenticate users. In most cases, the first factor will be a username and a password, while the second factor might be something like an OTP (One Time Password), as is the case with WP 2FA.
On the other hand, MFA stands for Multi-Factor Authentication and, as the name suggests, uses two or more factors to authenticate users. In fact, MFA is used as an umbrella term, with 2FA being one type of MFA.
While technically you can have up to 5-factor authentication, since this is how many different factors are available, anything more than two does not have a specific term like 2FA has and is simply referred to as MFA. In some cases, 2FA is also referred to as MFA – this is, technically speaking, quite correct.
Choosing between 2FA and MFA
A strong password policy is vital to the overall security of online accounts, including WordPress accounts. At the same time, we also need to ensure that we follow security best practices, as this can help us avoid common scams and social engineering attacks.
Even so, having a second additional authentication layer goes a long way in ensuring system and account security. For example you can install a 2FA plugin for WordPress on your website, to harden the authentication mechanism. Both 2FA and MFA can significantly increase the security of login processes and are considered a security best practice that can thwart most attacks.