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What is the Difference Between MFA vs. SSO?

Security and user experience are all that a modern online platform demands. And businesses need to create a perfect harmony between security and usability to witness growth. Let’s understand the aspects of MFA vs. SSO in detail and learn how businesses can leverage MFA and SSO to scale growth, ensure security, and maintain a rich consumer experience.


From passwords to OTPs and fingerprints to facial recognition, we’ve come a long way to make authentication seamless, secure, and safe.

Whether we’re paying online bills or signing up for our favorite OTT platform, we have to utilize any of the authentication mechanisms mentioned above to prove our identity.

However, most businesses jumping on the technology bandwagon aren’t concerned with the risky number of cybersecurity threats that can breach conventional authentication mechanisms. And the number of such breaches is surging exponentially!

As per IBM’s latest report, the average total cost of a data breach increased by nearly 10% year over year, the enormous single-year cost surge in the last seven years.

So, what can be the ideal solution to ensure a stringent line of defense for online platforms and mobile applications, especially when a single authentication isn’t enough?

Businesses need to understand the importance of multi-factor authentication (MFA) that combines two or more authentication mechanisms and reinforces overall security. But what about user experience? No business would prefer re-authenticating their users/customers again and again through different authentication mechanisms.

Here’s where the crucial role of single sign-on (SSO) comes into play.

Let’s understand the aspects of MFA vs. SSO in detail and learn how businesses can leverage MFA and SSO to scale growth, ensure security, and maintain a rich consumer experience.

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is an authentication method that requires users to provide multiple forms of verification to prove their identity.

Whenever you think what is multi-factor authentication and its aim, you must understand that the aim of implementing MFA is to mitigate the risks associated with relying solely on traditional username and password combinations. By combining at least two out of three factors - something the user knows (e.g., a password), something they have (e.g., a token or smartphone), or something they are (e.g., biometrics) - MFA adds an extra layer of security to online accounts.

This significantly reduces the likelihood of unauthorized access, protecting against threats such as password breaches or social engineering attacks.

What is an SSO (Single Sign-On)?

One of the most common question that people search online is that what is an sso. Single Sign-On (SSO) streamlines the login process by allowing users to authenticate themselves once and gain access to multiple applications or systems.

Rather than requiring users to remember and enter credentials for each service, SSO enables them to log in once through a central authentication system known as the Identity Provider (IdP).

The IdP then authenticates the user's identity and provides access to the various applications within the SSO ecosystem. This simplifies user experience, enhances productivity, and reduces the burden of managing multiple sets of login credentials.

MFA vs. SSO: What Business Advantages Do They Offer?

Multi-factor authentication (or MFA) is a multi-layered security system that verifies the identity of users for login or other transactions.

The user account will remain secure by leveraging multiple authentication layers even if one element is damaged or disabled. And that's the catch!

Codes generated by smartphone apps, answers to personal security questions, codes sent to an email address, fingerprints, etc., are a few examples of multi-factor authentication implemented in day-to-day scenarios.

Since we’ve understood what MFA is and its crucial role in enhancing the platform and user security, let’s know what SSO is and how it helps businesses grow.

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a method of authentication that allows websites/mobile applications to use other trustworthy sites/apps to verify users. Single sign-on enables users to log in to any independent application with a single ID and password.

SSO is an essential feature of an Identity and Access Management (IAM) platform for controlling access. Verifying user identity is vital for knowing which permissions a user will have. The LoginRadius Identity platform is one example of managing access that combines user identity management solutions with SSO solutions.

MFA vs. SSO: Real-Life Use Case

MFA: Multi-factor authentication is used in scenarios where stringent security measures are required, and a single layer of security isn’t sufficient. Let’s understand this with a real-life example.

For instance, when you shop online and process the payment through internet banking, your bank website asks you to enter your credentials or PIN. Once the credentials/PIN are verified, an OTP (one-time-password) is sent to your registered mobile number, which you must enter to process the transaction. This is multi-factor authentication.

SSO: Single sign-on authentication helps users stay authenticated on multiple interconnected yet independent platforms using a single identity. Let’s understand this with a real-life example.

For instance, when you’re signed in to Gmail on your web browser in one tab and open YouTube on another tab, you’re already signed in with your Gmail account. The same goes for other services offered by Google, including Google Photos, Drive, and more.

Reasons to Choose MFA for Your Business

The benefits of multi-factor authentication form part of the experience that modern consumers expect from any well-managed organization today. MFA is rapidly becoming a standard offering from the biggest tech companies we deal with today.

Failing to meet these consumer expectations leaves you at risk of losing clientele to companies using CIAM and MFA to keep their data from harm.

Here’s what MFA gives you and your consumers:

  • Better security provides additional protection for consumers and employees in multiple security layers.
  • Boosted conversion: A streamlined authentication process keeps productivity high, leading to increased conversions.
  • Improved customer trust: Due to extra security checks, consumers and employees are rest assured about the data.
  • Reduced operating costs: The more layers, the more the risk of intruders from data breaches is reduced, leading to reduced investment.
  • Achieve compliance: Specific to your organization to mitigate audit findings and avoid potential fines.
  • Increase flexibility and productivity: The ability to remove the burden of passwords leads to better productivity.

Reasons to Choose SSO for Your Business

Single Sign-On clearly minimizes the risk of poor password habits. Also, removing login credentials from servers or network storage can help prevent a cyber-attack. Here’s what SSO gives you and your consumers:

  • Seamless user experience: Customers can use a single identity to navigate multiple web and mobile domains or service applications.
  • More robust password protection: Because users only need to use one password, SSO makes generating, remembering, and using stronger passwords simpler.
  • Reduces customer time: Less time spent re-entering passwords for the same identity. Users will spend less time logging into various apps to do their work. Ultimately it enhances the productivity of businesses.
  • Improves conversions and revenue: Customers can access all domains and services with a single active session.
  • Mitigates risk: Accessing third-party sites (user passwords are not stored or managed externally) becomes risk-free.
  • Unifies customer profiles: Creating a single instance of the customer data provides a centralized view of the customer across all channels.
  • Reduces IT costs: Due to fewer help desk calls about passwords, IT can spend less time helping users remember or reset their passwords for hundreds of applications.


Best Practices for Implementing MFA and SSO:

MFA Best Practices

  • Enforce MFA for all users, particularly for privileged accounts and sensitive systems.
  • Utilize a combination of diverse factors for authentication, such as passwords, tokens, and biometrics.
  • Educate users about the importance of MFA and provide clear instructions for setup and management.
  • Regularly review and update MFA policies based on emerging security threats to maintain robust protection.

SSO Best Practices

  • Implement a secure and reliable Identity Provider (IdP) that supports industry-standard authentication protocols.
  • Perform comprehensive testing and monitoring of the SSO system to identify and address vulnerabilities.
  • Implement strong access controls and authorization mechanisms to ensure users have appropriate application access.
  • Regularly review and update SSO configurations to align with evolving organizational requirements and security best practices.

Common Mistakes to Avoid when Implementing MFA and SSO

MFA Mistakes To Avoid

  • Overreliance on SMS-based one-time passwords (OTPs), which can be susceptible to SIM swapping or social engineering attacks.
  • Neglecting user education on securing MFA factors or lacking clear instructions for recovery or reset processes.
  • Failing to monitor MFA logs for potential security breaches or anomalies.

SSO Mistakes To Avoid

  • Implementing an outdated or insecure Identity Provider (IdP) that may have known vulnerabilities.
  • Neglecting regular security assessments and audits of the SSO infrastructure.
  • Failing to keep the SSO system and associated applications updated with the latest patches and security fixes.

Final Thoughts

With the increasing cybersecurity threats and consumers demanding a seamless experience, every business must put its best foot forward in incorporating MFA and SSO into their platforms.

However, a robust cloud-based CIAM (consumer identity and access management) platform like LoginRadius solves the purpose for businesses planning to leverage both MFA and SSO.

If you wish to see the future of SSO and MFA in action and how it works for your business, reach us to schedule a free personal demo of the LoginRadius CIAM.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the disadvantages of using MFA?

Some of the most common disadvantages of MFA include increased complexity for users, potential additional costs, and usability challenges.

2. What are the disadvantages of using SSO?

Some of the most common disadvantages of SSO include increased risk of a single point of failure, potential security breaches affecting multiple applications, and technical integration efforts.

3. Can MFA and SSO be used together?

Yes, combining MFA and SSO provides enhanced security and user experience.

4. How do MFA and SSO improve overall security?

MFA adds layers of verification, making unauthorized access harder, while SSO reduces password vulnerabilities and enhances convenience.

5. How can businesses determine the best solution for their needs?

By evaluating security requirements, assessing complexities and usability, and also by considering specific organizational needs.


Srishti Singh

Written by Srishti Singh

SEO Manager at LoginRadius, music lover, aspiring for new challenges. Dedicated to driving quality results with her innovative marketing tactics.

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