Password vs. 2FA: What’s the Difference?

Passwords have long been the default authentication method for accessing online accounts and services. Their easy compatibility across different systems made passwords appealing to users and IT administrators alike.

However, passwords also bring inherent security weaknesses. Most users struggle to create strong, unique passwords for all accounts and often resort to weak, reused credentials. Passwords can also be stolen via phishing scams, leaked from data breaches, or accidentally shared.

Additionally, passwords must be remembered and occasionally reset when forgotten. They offer a poor user experience over the long run. These fundamental limitations leave passwords vulnerable to compromise, even if not intentionally misused.

The increasing sophistication of cyberattacks and password leaks has made identity validation more important than ever. Alternatives like two-factor authentication aim to address password limitations by adding additional verification layers beyond what users know. This provides better protection of personal information and services.

This article examines multi-factor authentication and how while maintaining compatibility with current systems, solutions like 2FA enhance password security in the dynamic threat landscape.

Why are passwords bad?

Passwords are vulnerable for users due to several inherent weaknesses:

  • Reusing passwords across accounts is common but risky. Using the same password on multiple sites means compromising one account and jeopardising all others.

  • Strong, unique passwords are difficult for people to create and remember. This often leads to weak, guessable passwords or writing them down insecurely.

  • Passwords must be sufficiently complex, but regularly changing them leads to forgotten passwords and lockouts. This poor user experience fuels re-use.

  • Phishing scams can steal passwords when people are tricked into believing a fake login page is real. Even careful users may fall for sophisticated phishing.

  • Data breaches at companies continually expose troves of email/password combinations. When passwords are re-used, these leaks put other accounts at risk.

  • Shoulder surfing or keylogging malware can stealthily record passwords. Leaving a device unlocked and unattended allows silent password theft.

  • Reset security questions are also guessable if users select common answers. This backdoor allows password resets without the owner's knowledge.

Passwords alone do not provide strong account security because of these built-in weaknesses. Alternatives to strengthen identity validation are increasingly important protections.

What is 2FA?

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of protection on top of a password. When 2FA is activated, two distinct verification factors are needed to log into an account:

  • Something you know: Typically, a password

  • Something you have: A second confirming factor

Common second factors include one-time passwords generated by authenticator apps, physical security keys, or codes sent via SMS or email.

By requiring two separate credentials - something memorised plus something possessed - 2FA creates an additional hurdle for attackers, even if one factor is compromised. It strengthens security with minimal inconvenience to users.

A shared authenticator solution such as Daito is available for shared work accounts. Using a web-based authenticator, additional authorised users can assist in login verification with shared 2FA without requiring a separate device. Overall, 2FA brings important security benefits compared to relying on passwords alone while still providing flexibility for both personal and organisational use cases.

Daito 2FA Mobile

What's a password manager?

A password manager is a software or a mobile application that safely keeps website and application login credentials. Users need to only remember one "master" password to access their password manager vault.

When setting up a new online account, the password manager automatically generates and saves a strong, unique password. This eliminates the hassle of creating multiple complex passwords while protecting against re-use across sites.

Password managers encrypt credentials using high-strength algorithms and only reveal passwords when the master password is entered. Autofill features streamline logging into saved accounts from any browser or device.

The key difference between a password manager and a 2FA authenticator is what each protects. A password manager solely secures access to the encrypted password vault, not individual accounts. 2FA adds an extra layer of verification for individual logins beyond the password alone.

While both improve security over standard passwords, 2FA provides direct account protection even if the password is compromised. Password managers incentivize unique, strong credentials but do not independently verify each sign-in as 2FA does. An optimal security stance incorporates both password management and multifactor authentication when available.

2FA vs Passwords

With typical password-only logins, the process involves:

  • Entering a registered email/username

  • Inputting the associated password

  • Pressing "login" to gain access

In contrast, 2FA-protected accounts require a multi-step verification:

  • Entering the email/username and password as before

  • Upon password validation, a prompt appears for the second factor

  • This could be approving a push notification, inputting a generated one-time code, or connecting a security key

2FA strengthens security over just passwords alone in several ways:

  • Even if the password is phished or breached in a leak, access still requires the second factor

  • Stolen passwords alone cannot be used without also stealing the connected authenticator

  • It prevents account takeovers from just reusing passwords on other compromised sites

  • The added friction could potentially deter some unsophisticated hacking attempts

2FA dramatically raises the obstacles that malicious actors must overcome during the login process by requiring two different credentials and transactions to gain access. Online identities and sensitive accounts are better protected with this layered security model.


Passwords are still used for less important logins, but they are insufficient as the only identity protocol when it comes to the internet due to their inherent limitations. The weaknesses in passwords are addressed by two-factor authentication, which adds a layer of verification on top of what users already know.

Whether using authenticator apps, physical keys, or alternative factors, 2FA strengthens security for high-value accounts holding sensitive personal and financial information. Its usability has also improved dramatically with standards like FIDO2 mainstreaming support.

Password managers offer a complimentary solution by incentivizing unique, strong passwords. When paired with 2FA, managers further reduce the risks of password reuse or theft. Their combination provides multilayered protection.

As multifactor authentication gets easier to use, it is likely going to become standard for significant logins. Passwords might eventually become less common in popular use cases or be limited to less security-focused situations.