What IsThree-Factor Authentication?

Three-factor authentication (3FA) is a security mechanism that uses three different factors to verify a user’s identity.

By introducing a third factor, this form of multi-factor authentication (MFA) offers an additional layer of protection against threats like password theft and unauthorized access. While two-factor authentication (2FA) uses credentials and a verification code, 3FA also requires the user’s biometric data. This makes it a more secure way for users to access their accounts or complete a transaction. 

Three Factors of Authentication

1. The Knowledge Factor

The knowledge factor of the 3FA process is something that the user knows and can use to confirm their identity. It can be a password, a username, a Personal Identification Number (PIN) code, or an answer to a security question. 

2. The Possession Factor 

The possession factor is something physical that the user has with them. This can be a mobile phone, a SIM card, or a security token that generates a verification code. The user can then provide that code or reply to a notification as part of the 3FA process.

3. The Inherence Factor

The inherence factor is the one that sets 3FA apart from 2FA. It’s where the user provides a physical aspect that defines something they are. It can be any form of biometric data like fingerprint scans, retinal scans, facial recognition, or voice recognition. 

Two-Factor vs Three-Factor Authentication

While both of these are rooted in multifactor authentication, there are distinct authentication factors that differentiate them.

The primary difference between two-factor authentication and three-factor authentication is the number of factors involved in confirming the user’s identity. 2FA uses a combination of two elements. These are the knowledge factor (like a password) and the possession factor (like a mobile device for receiving a one-time code).

With 2FA, the process stops here. 3FA, on the other hand, goes a step further by adding the inherence factor (biometric data like facial recognition). 

2FA itself is secure enough as it requires two forms of verification. But by introducing a third element, 3FA takes the security up a notch. This makes the authentication process more solid and resilient against unauthorized access. 

The Evolution from One-Factor to Three-Factor Authentication

The initial method of authentication relied solely on a single factor, often a password or a PIN code. But since passwords are easy to compromise, 1FA proved to be vulnerable to cybersecurity risks. To address this issue, two-factor authentication introduced an extra layer of security in the form of possession factors, like mobile-generated verification codes. 

As methods of authentication evolved, so did security threats. This called for the addition of a third layer, leading to the adoption of 3-factor authentication. The integration of the biometric authentication factor provided a unique layer based on the physiological traits of the user. 

This evolution reflects the continuous advancements in digital security. It addresses the need for multi-layered and comprehensive approaches to protect sensitive information and block unauthorized access.

Top 5 Benefits of 3FA

1. Enhanced Security and Resistance to Attacks

The main advantage of having 3 authentication factors is heightened security. By requiring the verification of multiple different elements, 3FA prevents security breaches, identity theft, and other attacks. This multi-layered method makes it virtually impossible for cybercriminals to gain access to user accounts and personal information. 

2. Improved Compliance

Using 3FA is often key for meeting regulatory requirements in certain industries. Various data protection laws and standards require strong authentication measures to protect confidential information. By applying this high level of security, businesses can prove that they're compliant with all the security standards and legal obligations. 

3. Protection Against Credential Stuffing

A credential stuffing attack is where cybercriminals use stolen usernames and passwords across different platforms. 3FA prevents this by introducing additional layers of authentication. Even if attackers manage to expose login credentials, they will still need the user’s physical device or token as well as their biometric data. This significantly minimizes the success rate of credential stuffing attempts. 

4. Increased User Confidence

Users will feel more secure using a platform or service with a 3FA system, as it protects their digital identities. This high level of confidence comes from knowing that the authentication process is more immune to common cyber threats. It promotes a sense of trust in the company’s commitment to protecting customer data. 

5. Flexibility and Adaptability

3FA offers flexible implementation, allowing businesses to adapt the process to fit their specific needs. They can choose the combination of factors that best match both their security goals and user experience strategies.

For example, the process can with the user entering their username and password. Next, they can provide a one-time password that they'd receive via SMS. They can then do a facial recognition, completing the authentication process. This guarantees a seamless integration of 3FA into various scenarios and industries while maintaining security and user-friendliness.