Single Factor Authentication Compared to Hardware Tokens, Biometrics

Single factor authentication is sometimes considered to be synonymous with multi factor authentication however, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s weak compared to many biometric or hardware token authentication methods that are strong when properly implemented.

A hardware token is a second factor that helps to ensure that even if an intruder steals a user’s password, they would also have to access the physical device to get into the user’s account.

Biometric authentication can make for a secure SFA as long as the right kinds of implementations are chosen. Retina scans, finger vein scans, and voice recognition are generally good candidates. One must be sure that the biometric scanner and its implementation is better in a standalone SFA solution rather than one component of MFA.

Single Factor Authentication vs Multi-Factor Authentication

Comparing SFA and MFA/2FA relies on two things: user experience or convenience and security. On the surface, more authentication methods mean stronger security while a single authentication method means a better user experience. Differences between single-factor and multi-factor authentication systems are as follows:

Single Factor Authentication Multi Factor Authentication 
  • In single factor authentication, the process of authentication is much simpler
  • In multi factor authentication, the process of authentication can be more complex
  • There is a risk to security
  • There is no risk to security
  • There is a chance of information getting stolen
  • There is no chance for information getting stolen 
  • The user in not in full control
  • The user is in full control
  • There is a chance of a users password getting captured by the keylogger
  • There is no risk of a users password getting captured by the keylogger
  • There is a chance of a phishing attack, where the attacker may deceive the user to enter the password or userid.
  • In multi-factor authentication, a phishing attack will not accomplish its purpose. 

Risks of Single Factor Authentication

Single factor authentication only requires one form of authentication when identifying a user’s identity. It is common for passwords to be leaked by a cybercriminal and without an additional factor to your password to confirm your identity, all a cybercriminal needs is your password to gain access to your accounts.

Oftentimes a user’s password is simple so that it is easy to remember. The more simple the password, the easier it is for a cybercriminal to crack. A malicious user may guess your password because they know you personally or because they were able to find out certain things about you, such as your birthdate, favorite actor/actress, or pet’s name. A malicious user may also crack your password by using a bot to generate the right combination of letters/numbers to match your simple, secret identification method.

There are a growing number of products, websites, and apps that offer two-factor and multi-factor authentication. Single factor authentication, while effective if you have a strong password, is still not as strong as an MFA solution. MFA in general, is the way to make our accounts much harder for attackers to break into.

Start your free trial today. No credit card required.

Sign up and Go