What is Two Factor Authentication?

Risk Management
February 28, 2023
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security system that requires two forms of authentication before allowing access. Learn what 2FA is, the benefits of using it, how 2FA is implemented, and know the differences between 2FA and MFA (multi-factor authentication).

What is 2FA (Two-Factor Authentication)?

Security has emerged as a top priority for both people and organizations in the digital age since practically everything is accessible online. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is a security system that has increasingly gained popularity and is considered an essential security measure.

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an identity and access management security protocol that requires two forms of identification to access resources and data. It provides an extra layer of protection beyond just a username and password, helping to safeguard vulnerable information and networks. 2FA typically involves two distinct forms of identification.

Obviously, the first authentication factor is something the user knows, such as a password or PIN. The second factor is something the user has, like a mobile device or hardware token.

Many organizations have implemented 2FA as part of their security protocols to protect sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access. Furthermore, the use of 2FA has been recommended by data privacy legislation and compliance standards such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

What are the benefits of using 2FA?

Why is 2FA a beneficial security measure? The advantages of using 2FA include:

Improved security

This crowns it all when it comes to the advantages, particularly in this day and age where cyberattacks are becoming more complex and common. 2FA significantly reduces the risk of account breaches, as attackers would need to have access to the second factor in addition to the username and password.

Protection against password attacks

Password attacks are one of the major risks to the security of your online accounts. This type of cyberattack involves an attacker attempting to access your account by guessing or cracking your password. Password attacks can be made manually, using automated tools or stolen password databases from other websites. 2FA protects you from such threats.


Having many online accounts can make it hard to recall various passwords, not to mention remembering to change them regularly. Nevertheless, 2FA simplifies the process of managing accounts by eliminating the requirement of frequent password alterations. Many online services now offer 2FA, making it an easy and convenient way to improve account security.


2FA enables organizations to demonstrate to auditors and regulatory bodies the steps taken to protect sensitive information and comply with regulations. For instance, HIPAA requires healthcare organizations to implement patient health information safeguards, while PCI DSS mandates 2FA for entities that accept credit card payments. GDPR mandates security measures that correspond to risk.

User confidence

2FA helps companies build trust and credibility with their users. Many 2FA methods offer real-time notifications, giving users greater visibility into their account activity. Some 2FA methods will alert users when someone attempts to log in to their account from a new device or location. This added transparency can help users quickly detect and respond to any suspicious activity, further increasing their confidence in the security of their accounts.

Phishing protection

2FA protects against phishing by requiring an additional factor of authentication beyond the user's password. Even if a user falls for a phishing attack and provides their password to a cybercriminal, the attacker would still need access to the second authentication factor. This added layer of protection makes it much more difficult for attackers to gain access to a user's account, even if they have the user's password.

Overall, the benefits of using 2FA make it a valuable security measure to protect against unauthorized access to your accounts and sensitive information.

Implementing 2FA

Implementing 2FA is a relatively straightforward process that can be done on many systems, software, and websites. It is mostly used on services and websites that require users to log in, such as email accounts, social media platforms, online banking, and e-commerce websites.

The service provider must enable it as an option for users before they can set up the second factor of authentication. This can be done via SMS-based 2FA (most common), app-based 2FA (by downloading an app such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator), voice-based authentication, or hardware-based 2FA (using a hardware token).

Once the second factor is set up, the user will be prompted to enter the code sent to their mobile device or generated by the authenticator app after entering their password. The user will need to complete this process every time they log in to the service.

It is important to note that implementing 2FA involves enabling the option on the service provider's end and setting up the second factor of authentication on the user's end.

Difference between Two Factor Authentication and Multi-factor authentication

While Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) are both security measures that require users to provide multiple forms of authentication, there is a significant difference between the two.

The main difference is as the name suggests. 2FA requires users to provide two forms of authentication to verify their identity, while MFA requires three or more. In other words, MFA is a more advanced and sophisticated security measure that provides an additional layer of security compared to 2FA.

The additional factors in MFA can vary depending on the service provider. They typically include something the user knows (such as a password), something the user has (such as a hardware token or a mobile phone), and something the user is (such as a biometric factor like a fingerprint or facial recognition).

Comparatively, MFA provides a higher level of security and makes it more difficult for attackers to compromise user accounts by requiring multiple factors of authentication. However, implementing MFA can be more complicated and may require more resources compared to 2FA.

It's worth noting that the terms 2FA and MFA are often used interchangeably, and some service providers may use the term MFA when they are only using two factors of authentication. In any case, both 2FA and MFA are effective security measures that can help protect sensitive information and prevent unauthorized access to user accounts.

Boost Your Security Measures With Accountable HQ

As individuals and businesses look for ways to enhance their security measures, Accountable HQ stands out as a leading provider of risk and compliance software-as-a-service solutions. With a dedicated team of experts in data security, privacy legislation, and risk management, Accountable HQ is committed to providing the most up-to-date information and comprehensive solutions to its clients.

If you are seeking guidance on HIPAA or GDPR compliance, Accountable HQ is your go-to company for expertise and support. Choose Accountable HQ, knowing that your security and compliance needs are in capable hands.

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