A password alone is no longer an effective solution for securing sensitive or otherwise important data. Passwords can be hacked. If a password is short or otherwise weak, a hacker may be able to guess it. Even long passwords, however, aren’t immune to hacking. Fortunately, there are ways to strengthen the security of your data, such as two-factor (2FA) and multi-factor authentication (MFA). What’s the difference between 2FA and MFA?

What Is 2FA?

2FA involves the use of a password — or in some cases a PIN — and one other piece of information to access an account. The other piece of information can consist of something that you possess, such as a one-time password sent to your smartphone, or it can consist of something that you inherit, such as a fingerprint or voice recognition pattern.

If you enable 2FA on an account containing sensitive or important data, you’ll still have to log in to the account using a password. With that said, you’ll also be required to provide one other method of verification.

What Is MFA?

MFA involves the use of a password and at least one other piece of information. Like with 2FA, the other piece of information can be something you can possess or something you inherit. The difference is that MFA isn’t limited to just one alternative piece of information. It can require two or more pieces of alternative information.

MFA is essentially the same as 2FA, except it’s not limited to just one piece of alternative information. In this regard, 2FA is considered a form of MFA. Not all forms of MFA, though, are considered 2FA. If an MFA solution requires two or more alternative pieces of information, it’s not considered 2FA.

Benefits of 2FA and MFA

Whether you use 2FA or MFA, you can rest assured knowing that your data is less likely to be breached. Data breaches involving 2FA- or MFA-protected accounts are rare. For a hacker to breach a 2FA- or MFA-protected account, he or she must have access to something that you own or inherent. Most hackers probably won’t have access to your smartphone, nor will they have access to your fingerprints or voice recognition pattern.

MFA, of course, can oftentimes offer a higher level of security than 2FA. With MFA, you may have to provide other pieces of alternative information to access the account. Each of these additional steps further adds to the security of your data.