Introduction to MFA | MFA - Zoho Accounts

Introduction to multi-factor authentication (MFA)

Multi-factor authentication is used as an extra layer of security while signing in to your account. When you enable MFA, all your future sign-ins will require you to verify your identity to ensure that your account isn't accessed by unknown users. You can do this by enabling an MFA mode for your account. For example, if you enable SMS-based OTP, an OTP will be sent to your mobile number, which then needs to be entered when you sign in, thus ensuring that your account stays protected.

MFA modes

Zoho provides four MFA modes to choose from:
  1. OneAuth
    OneAuth is an industry standard multi-factor authentication app built by Zoho. It offers the following features:
    1. MFA for multiple Zoho accounts
    2. Passwordless sign-in
    3. Mobile SSO
    4. OTP authenticator for non-Zoho accounts
    5. Easy backup and recovery
            Learn more
  1. SMS-based OTP
    When you set SMS-based OTP as your MFA mode, a short-lived, single-use authentication code is sent to your mobile device as an SMS message, which you can use to verify your identity during sign-in.
    Learn more
Note: For users who registered after January 1, 2024, SMS-based OTP won't be provided as an MFA option. This is due to the susceptibility of SMS-based OTP to various security threats like phishing, SS7 and SIM swapping attacks.
  1. OTP authenticator
    An OTP authenticator generates unique codes in fixed time intervals. When you set an OTP authenticator as your MFA mode, you can use the OTP shown in the authenticator app to verify your identity during sign-in.
    Learn more
  1. Security key
    A security key is a hardware device which can be inserted into your computer or laptop. When you configure a security key for your account and set it as your MFA mode, you can insert it to verify your identity during sign-in.
    Learn more

MFA: Org-enforced vs. Self-configured

If you are an organization admin, you can enforce MFA for all the users in your organization. You can choose which modes need to be set up by the users and enforce them. After such policies are enforced, the users will be prompted to set up and sign in using MFA. Refer to your app's documentation to learn how to enforce security policies.

If you want to secure your personal Zoho account, you can enable one or more of the available MFA modes for your account. Check out the respective help articles to learn how to configure the different MFA modes. However, if you are a part of an organization that enforces MFA-related security policies for its users, you can only configure the modes that are allowed according to the policy.

Multi-mode MFA

You can configure multi-mode MFA by configuring at least two MFA modes for your account. With multi-mode MFA, you will have the flexibility to choose between different modes when you want to sign in to your account. You can set one of the modes as the primary MFA mode, and it will be the default mode when you try to sign in. You can choose the other modes to sign in if your primary mode is not currently available. See how to sign in using multi-mode MFA.

MFA and third party mail clients

If you are using your Zoho account in any third-party mail clients, such as Outlook or Thunderbird, you may encounter issues signing in to the app if it doesn't support multi-factor authentication (this more often results in an "incorrect password" error). This is because only entering your username and password in your client will not allow you to sign in as MFA verification cannot be done.

In such cases, you can generate application-specific passwords in Zoho and use them to sign in to your mail client. These application-specific passwords allow you to bypass MFA verification and let you sign in to the client with just your username and this application-specific password.

MFA lifetime

Normally, you will need to verify your identity using your MFA mode every time you sign in to your account. However, if you are signing in often from a trusted computer (such as your personal computer), you can avoid verifying through MFA by trusting your browser. By default, the MFA lifetime for a trusted browser (i.e., the duration you won't be asked for MFA) is 180 days. However, if you are part of an organization, your administrator may reduce the number of days or even restrict trusting a browser altogether by enforcing security policies.

Backup codes to recover access

If you lose access to the device that you use for MFA, you won't be able to sign in to your account. However, if you have saved backup verification codes beforehand, you can use them to recover your account in such cases. For this reason, it is essential for you to generate and save backup codes once you enable MFA fo your account. See how to generate backup codes and how to use them to recover your account.
  1. How to disable/re-enable MFA?
  2. What are trusted browsers and how to enable them?

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