MFA is A Necessary Chore!: Exploring User Mental Models of Multi-Factor Authentication Technologies

Das, Sanchari
Wang, Bingxing
Kim, Andrew
Camp, L. Jean
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With technological advancements, traditional single-factor authentication methods, such as passwords, have become more vulnerable to cyber-threats. One potential solution, multi-factor authentication (MFA), enhances security with additional steps of verification. Yet, MFA has a slow adoption rate among users, and frequent data breaches continue to impact online and real-world services. Little research has investigated users' understanding and usage of MFA while specifically focusing on the their mental models and social behaviors in a work setting. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 28 individuals (11 experts, 17 non-experts), while focusing on their risk perceptions, MFA usage, and understanding of required technologies. We identified that experts treated MFA as a useful added layer of authentication, while non-experts did not perceive any additional benefits of using MFA. Both non-experts and experts expressed frustration with MFA usage, often referring to it as a 'chore.' Based on these findings, we make several actionable recommendations for improving the adoption, acceptability, and usability of MFA tools.
Designing for Digital, human factors of privacy and security, mental models, multi-factor authentication, password, user experience.
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