User Authentication

MFA vs. SSO: What is the Difference?

According to GoodFirms, 30% of users have experienced security breaches due to weak passwords. Gladly, we have come a long way from password-only authentication.

With the growing threat of cyberattacks, your business needs to look beyond passwords. That’s where new authentication mechanisms come in.

Today, we’ll introduce and discuss the differences between the two of the most popular authentication routes, MFA and SSO.  

Understanding MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) strengthens authentication by requiring users to provide multiple forms of identification. By utilizing two or more factors like OTP, biometrics, etc. MFA significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access, even if a password is compromised. 

The factors used in MFA fall into three categories: 

1. Something you know – includes passwords, PINs, and security questions

2. Something you have – involves devices like smartphones or security badges 

3. Something you are – encompasses biometric features like fingerprints, facial recognition, and retina scans.  

Multi-Factor Auth provides a multi-layered security system, ensuring user accounts remain secure and protected. Incorporating various authentication factors, it mitigates the vulnerabilities associated with relying solely on passwords.

Benefits of MFA 

Enhanced Security

According to Microsoft, MFA blocks 99.99% of enterprise account hacks.

MFA adds multiple layers of security. This makes it more difficult for attackers to gain unauthorized access to applications and services. 

With multiple modes available, such as device-based authentication, OTP, and biometrics, users can choose the most secure option.

Improved User Experience

Modern MFA implementations prioritize user experience by providing a seamless login process. Users can securely access their environment anywhere and anytime without compromising security measures.

Cost Reduction

The additional layers of security provided by MFA minimize the chances of unauthorized access and potential financial loss associated with security breaches.

Increased Trust

The thorough MFA authentication process instills trust and reassurance, strengthening relationships with customers and employees.

Exploring SSO

With SSO (Single-Sign-On), users can enjoy the convenience of accessing various platforms using a single set of credentials. This eliminates the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords, promoting productivity and efficiency.

For instance, Google showcases the use of SSO. Once users log in to their Google account, they gain access to Gmail, YouTube, Maps, and more without re-authentication.

SSO offers more than just convenience. This authentication mode enhances security by centralizing user session and validation services. So the risk of forgotten passwords and unauthorized access decreases. 

With Single-Sign-On, users can effortlessly navigate the digital landscape with a single set of credentials, enhancing convenience, efficiency, and safety.

Benefits of SSO

Seamless Login Experience

According to HYPR’s 2019 report, 78% of people have had to reset their password in the last three months. One of the reasons behind it? Creating new and complex credentials for multiple services. 

With SSO, users can access various applications with single credentials, saving time and effort. No inconvenience of account lockouts or forgotten credentials.

Compliance Adherence

SSO provides a secure and auditable authentication mechanism, helping organizations meet regulatory requirements such as HIPAA and PCI-DSS.

Simplified IT management 

SSO simplifies user account administration and monitoring for IT departments. It enables:

  • Easier tracking of user activity
  • Enhances data access control 
  • Reduces the burden of managing multiple sets of credentials.

Increased Conversions & Revenue

SSO simplifies the user experience, reducing friction in accessing services and domains. This seamless access can lead to improved conversions and revenue generation for businesses.

Key Differences between MFA and SSO

We have split the critical differences between MFA and SSO into the following five domains:

Focus & Primary Function

MFA focuses on enhancing security by adding two or more layers of authentication. Whereas SSO advocates for the user’s convenience by providing access to multiple services using one login credential.  

Authentication Scope

Multi-Factor Authentication is user-centric, focusing on individual accounts. On the split side, Single-Sign-On is system-centric, depending on a centralized identity provider for accessing multiple apps via a single login.  

Auth Factors

SSO only uses a single set of credentials to achieve authentication for multiple services. On the other hand, MFA uses three factors, something you know, something you are, and something you are. 

User Experience

MFA causes disturbance in user convenience as it requires two or more additional verifications. However, SSO provides seamless access to multiple applications with a single sign-in. 

Security Implications 

SSO introduces potential risks as all the connected services rely on a single set of credentials. However, provide top-notch security streamlined for each account using multiple authentication layers.

When to Use MFA and SSO

MFA and SSO are two separate sets of technologies. Which one is better for your business? Gauge by checking out their recommended use cases below: 

MFA Use Cases

1. Highly sensitive databases and systems: Large corporations in finance, health, etc., will prefer MFA as there’s a lot at stake.

2. Remote access: When providing remote access to corporate networks via VPNs, MFA will ensure that only authorized individuals can connect.

3. Admin accounts: One compromised admin account in any business can result in unimaginable loss. So, it’s essential to back privileged accounts with MFA.       

SSO Use Cases

1. Organizations with multiple systems and apps: Businesses with intertwined systems and apps will profit from SSO.

2. Collab platforms & cloud-based services: SSO will benefit collab platforms and cloud-based services where users have to switch back & forth between multiple tools and services.     

Role of MFA in SSO Environments

MFA and SSO work differently, but they can be coupled with each other to provide a combination of robust security and convenience.

Deployment of Multi-Factor Authentication on top of SSO results in additional layers of verification. Moreover, it drastically reduces the risks of account takeovers while providing a seamless single-log-in user experience.    

Enable MFA and SSO Today with Vault Vision

Want to add MFA, SSO, or both to your website and app? Vault Vision provides an easy, fast, and secure setup of the technologies without code. 

Our all-in-one platform features MFA and SSO integrations for all major frameworks and languages, including Python, React, Flask, Ruby, etc. Moreover, we support Webflow, Bubble, Zapier, and more.

Final Words

Multi-Factor Authentication and Single-Sign-On are targeted toward different use cases. One prioritizes security, while the latter focuses on user convenience. Consider your business requirements to choose one mode out of the two.

At Vault Vision, we proudly serve you with both authentication methods, MFA and SSO. Register today to get a free trial of our Launch and Growth plans. Or, contact us to get a tailored quote for the Enterprise Plan.     




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