AWS MFA : Protect your account with the strongest authentication method available

You’ve probably already heard of multi-factor authentication, and how so many platforms have added this feature as an added security layer. 

In this article, I will give you more detail on how AWS added this feature, and its multiple advantages among others.

What is AWS MFA and why should you use it?

AWS Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a new security layer that AWS added to their user accounts, which requires a second form of authentication, after the classical one which is a password.

This type of authentication can be either a generated code by an AWS-provided virtual MFA device or a code sent to your mobile phone via SMS.

This type of protection is needed, as providing two forms of authentication to the user before accessing their AWS resources, will prevent any dangers or cyberattacks.

How to set up AWS MFA for your account?

To add AWS MFA to your account, follow these steps:

  1. 1

    I will have to sign into your account through the AWS Management Console.

  2. 2

    Once logged in, go to the IAM service.

  3. 3

    You will find the “Users” link in the navigation pane. Click on it.

  4. 4

    A list of users will come up, select the one you want to enable MFA for.

  5. 5

    After that, click on the "Security Credentials" tab and then on the "Enable MFA" button.

  6. 6

    AWS will ask you then to either choose a virtual MFA device, such as the AWS Virtual MFA app or use an authenticator application on your smartphone.

  7. 7

    Once that is done, your MFA device is configured, and you just have to enter the MFA code, and then click on the “Associate” button.

  8. 8

    Now MFA will be enabled for the user you chose.

I should add that after everything is done, that user will have to provide the MFA token in addition to their password when they sign in to the AWS Management Console.

How to use AWS MFA with different services?

AWS MFA can indeed be used with different services, as it is one of its many advantages. I will tell you more about these services and how they use AWS MFA.

AWS Management Console:

Whenever you log into your account through this console, you will be asked to enter the MFA code, that’s of course if you enable it for your user account.


These will allow you to access AWS resources through the command line. To use MFA with them, you can use the "--serial-number" and "--token-code" options when you run a command.

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM):

MFA can be used with IAM to provide an added layer of security for IAM users and roles.

AWS Resource-based policies:

You can also use MFA to control access to specific AWS resources by adding MFA-related conditions to resource-based policies.

AWS Organizations:

You can use AWS Organizations to enable MFA for all accounts under your management in one go.

What are the pros and cons of using AWS MFA?

As most technologies and services have pros and cons, AWS MFA is no different.


  • It adds a new layer of security to your account, making it difficult for unauthorized users to get in.

  • Adding a second form of authentication helps you meet compliance requirements.

  • Can be used to control access to specific AWS resources.

  • Can be used with AWS Organizations to enable MFA for all accounts under your management in one go.

  • Can be integrated with other security tools and services.


  • It adds an extra step to the login process, which could be tiresome for some users.

  • Users will need to have a mobile device or access to a virtual MFA device to complete the MFA process.

  • If a user loses their mobile device or MFA device, they will not be able to access AWS resources until they get a new device or an administrator resets MFA.

  • If a user forgets to enter the MFA code, they will not be able to access their AWS resources.

Tips for troubleshooting AWS MFA issues

You might encounter some issues with AWS MFA, so here are some tips for troubleshooting these issues:

  • First of all, verify that your MFA device is set correctly and that the time on the device is correctly synced with the current time.

  • Check if the MFA device serial number is the same one used when trying to access WS resources.

  • Double-check that the MFA code being entered is the current code generated by the MFA device, as it changes every 30 seconds.

  • Check the IAM policy, that it allows access to the specific resource and that MFA is required for that action.

  • Contact AWS Support: If you are still experiencing issues with MFA, contact AWS Support for further assistance.

  • And finally, keep track of the MFA devices your users are using.

What does the future look like for AWS MFA?

AWS will likely continue to invest and improve the MFA offering in the future. Here are a few potential areas where AWS may focus in the future:

  • AWS may add new types of authentication methods, such as biometrics or hardware tokens.

  • AWS may continue to improve the integration of MFA with other services.

  • AWS may also add new enhanced security features.

  • As the number of AWS users continues to grow, AWS may focus on improving the scalability of the MFA service to handle large numbers of users and devices.

  • More MFA options for developers to integrate MFA in their applications.

  • AWS may also use Artificial Intelligence to make the MFA more adaptive, based on the behavior of the user.

AWS MFA’s future is so full of new promising features, but you should keep in mind that these are not confirmed by AWS, so you should keep yourself updated and to check for any official statements to confirm.


I would like to end this article by giving you an overview of AWS MFA. As I said before, this is one of the most important services presented by AWS, as it assures the security of your data, which will help you manage your applications and projects peacefully without worrying over attacks and slip-ups.


Is MFA mandatory in AWS?

MFA is not required to create an AWS account, but it is advised to enable it.

How do I enable MFA in AWS?

You can enable MFA in AWS through the security credentials tab in your AWS account. For more details, see above.

Can I have 2 MFA devices on AWS?

You can have multiple MFA devices on AWS, as this helps you raise the security level.

Does MFA work without the Internet?

Yes, you can use your mobile device to authenticate with MFA without internet access.

What are the alternatives to AWS MFA?

There are so many alternatives to AWS MFA, like Google Authenticator, Duo Security, SecurID, and Authy.

About the author


Youssef is a Senior Cloud Consultant & Founder of

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