What Is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Do you want to help keep the prying eyes of cybercriminals away from your sensitive data? Find out how multi-factor authentication can put a stop to hackers.

Multi-Factor Authentication Key Takeaways

  • Hackers are lying in wait for the perfect moment to break into your systems. MFA helps to keep them locked out.

  • 61% security breaches are tied to stolen credentials, making it important to level up your security.1

  • Multi-factor authentication requires people to confirm who they are without question before gaining access to your systems.

  • The best security includes multi-factor authentication and starts at the hardware level.



If you are running a small business, you want to make it harder for cybercriminals to break into your systems and steal data. But stopping them? That’s not always easy. Multi-factor authentication helps to place a larger barrier between you and criminals, so you can shut down their attempts to access your data.

The Importance of Multi-Factor Authentication

Have you ever been prompted to enter letters, numbers, and symbols when creating a new password? For a long time, these combinations were enough to keep cyber thieves out of your systems. But not anymore. Criminals are sneaky, and cracking “hard” passwords is now easier.

MFA challenges your employees to prove who they are before accessing your systems. MFA requires a second and maybe even a third test for users to help keep criminals out. And these tests are critical, since over half of security breaches are directly traced back to stolen credentials.4

Cybercriminals want an easy target, and using MFA helps ensure that your business isn’t that target.

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) vs. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Unsure of the difference between 2FA and MFA? At first glance, they look similar. 2FA requires exactly two forms of authentication, such as your login credentials and a code sent to your cell phone. MFA also requires at least two factors, but it sometimes requires more.

So, is MFA better than 2FA? That’s a great question. With every additional layer of security, you’re keeping hackers a step further away from your data. For example, if 2FA requires you to enter your login credentials and a code sent to your email address, but MFA requires these two factors plus your fingerprint, MFA is putting a larger buffer between you and criminals.

Benefits of Multi-Factor Authentication

You’ve used passwords for years to keep criminals away from your data, but today’s passwords provide little protection against risk. Stealing passwords may be easy for hackers, and once they have those passwords in hand, breaking into your systems is a simple task.

The benefit of MFA is that it helps to provide your business, employees, and customers with better security. People who know that you use MFA understand that you take security seriously. And you’re at far less risk for the brute-force attacks that make headlines.

How Does MFA Work?

MFA requires up to three different authentication factors to verify your identity. The first is often your username and password. The second is usually a code sent to your email or smartphone. And the last is the hardest – such as a fingerprint or facial scan.

Stealing your username and password? That’s easy for hackers. But passing the other two tests is much more difficult, which helps to keep fraudsters locked out.

Types of Authentication

MFA uses a few different categories to make sure that anyone who logs in to your system has legit access. This includes something your employee knows (knowledge), something they have (possession), and something they are (inherence). Let’s break it down.

Knowledge Authentication

When you successfully enter your username and password, you’ve passed the first factor: knowledge. Another example of knowledge-based criteria is correctly answering personal security questions, such as “What was your first dog’s name?” or “What is the name of your birth city?”

Possession Authentication

You correctly entered your login credentials, so you passed the first test. Now MFA gives you a new test: You must enter a code sent to your cell phone. Alternatively, it might send that code to your email address.

Inherence Authentication

If you meet the first two criteria, it’s unlikely that you’re a hacker. But MFA is diligent, and it wants to be certain. So, it checks something personal it can recognize, such as your fingerprint, retina, face, or voice.

MFA for Cloud Computing

There are two different ways that MFA technology can be deployed. It can be on premises (physically at your company), or it can operate in the cloud.

The benefit of cloud MFA is that it’s more cost effective than on-premises options. You don’t need to buy expensive equipment to get it up and running, and it’s easy to scale as your business grows. With so many employees working remotely, cloud MFA comes with fewer administration and hardware costs compared to on-premise options.

Also, hackers are constantly designing new threats to attack your business. Cloud MFA helps you stay up to date on these threats without the internal resources that on-premises options require. Check out Remote Work Cybersecurity Challenges for more information on how hackers are targeting small businesses.

Intel and Security

Cybercriminals constantly seek new opportunities to enter your network and create havoc, which you can learn about in What is Cybersecurity. Multi-factor authentication helps you shut down these points of entry, so criminals have fewer opportunities to launch attacks against your business.

The best security starts at the hardware level. The Intel vPro® platform gives you innovative, hardware-based security that helps protect against leading security threats.

Worried about the cost? Look into Intel vPro® Essentials. It delivers out-of-the-box hardware-based security and includes Intel® Hardware Shield, which protects against attacks below the operating system. And if you need even more security and manageability, Intel vPro® Enterprise is built to enhance security in larger business fleets.

Intel’s dedication to security assurance helps customers tackle today’s toughest challenges with innovative technologies that defend against cyberattacks, detect unlikely threats, and help recover from data breaches. Download the 2021 Intel Product Security Report to see how our security-centric approach impacts everything we do at Intel.


Frequently Asked Questions

MFA challenges your employees to prove who they are before accessing your systems. MFA requires a second and maybe even a third test for users to help keep criminals out.

Cybersecurity is critical for the protection of your computer systems, networks, mobile devices, servers, and information. Criminals want to gain access to systems, gather information, and steal data. With improved safeguards, your business can be better equipped to face potential risks such as downtime, hardware damage, reputational damage, and financial challenges.

Knowledge-based criteria require your employees to correctly answer security questions to gain access to your system.

Inherence authentication checks identifiers, such as a fingerprint, retina, face, or voice before granting system access.

Two-factor authentication requires exactly two forms of authentication, such as your login credentials and a code sent to your cell phone to confirm identity.

Product and Performance Information

1“Four Ways Cybercriminals Can Hack Passwords,” Security Magazine, June 2, 2022.

All versions of the Intel vPro® platform require an eligible Intel processor, a supported operating system, Intel® LAN and/or WLAN silicon, firmware enhancements, and other hardware and software necessary to deliver the manageability use cases, security features, system performance, and stability that define the platform. See intel.com/performance-vpro for details.

3Performance varies by use, configuration and other factors. Learn more at www.intel.com/PerformanceIndex.
4“Four Ways Cybercriminals Can Hack Passwords,” Security Magazine, June 2, 2022.