Since it is only something you have, that makes it single factor authentication right?

  • 2
    Very common to use smartcard & PIN to make it multi-factor
    – paj28
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:26
  • 1
    This refocus of the question was a good idea. Thank you
    – schroeder
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


Factors refer to the three different modes of authentication (although there are more - geographic, time of day, etc, but they're less typically referenced)

The 3 main factors are

1) Something you have

2) Something you are

3) Something you know

You are correct that a smart card is single factor on its own - anyone with it can authenticate to the system.

It becomes multi-factor when it's paired with an element from 2 or 3. If I have a password and a smartcard, I have two factor. If I have a password and a smartcard and a fingerprint scan I have three factor.

As an aside - If I have two smart cards and a password I still have two factor. You can't use two passwords, smart cards, or two fingerprints to make two factor.

  • Ok. So perhaps the practice test question had a wrong answer. I know they're phasing out the SYO-401, so maybe it is becoming obsolete Jan 23, 2018 at 19:43
  • 1
    IME CompTIA, which generally good, sometimes has blatantly wrong questions in their stuff. Jan 23, 2018 at 19:47
  • 2
    @Adonalsium agreed, seen it lots of times
    – schroeder
    Jan 23, 2018 at 19:49

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