Single Sign-On (SSO) is an important tool that enhances security and convenience when using various applications and services within your organization. Have you come across it but need a better understanding of what it entails? We have a detailed overview for you, covering what SSO is, its uses, why your company needs it, and how standards like SAML 2.0 function.
What is Single Sign-On?
Single Sign-On is an authentication process that allows users to access multiple applications and services using a single username and password. Instead of having users log into each application and service separately, SSO enables them to easily share their credentials across different systems and applications. This means that a user only needs to log in once to gain access to various services or applications. This concept brings benefits to both users and companies that implement it.
What are the uses of Single Sign-On?
Single Sign-On is used in various industries, particularly in corporations, educational institutions, or governments. It serves, for example, for remote access to applications and services, when using the cloud, when utilizing external services, and when integrating with other systems.
SSO is used for:
- Simplifying login for users: Users do not have to remember and enter different usernames and passwords for each application or service separately.
- Increasing security: SSO reduces the risk of sensitive data leaks, as users do not have to share their credentials across multiple applications.
- Improving control over data access: IT administrators can easily manage users’ access to various applications and services through a centralized system.
Why does a company need Single Sign-On?
Companies often use many different applications and services, and each has its own authentication process. This can be complicated for users and can lead to login and password management issues. SSO enables:
- Increased productivity: SSO simplifies and speeds up the login process, reducing the time spent logging in and allowing employees to use their working hours more effectively.
- Reduced support costs: Fewer login credentials mean fewer support calls regarding password issues and fewer employees needed to resolve these problems.
- Improved company security: SSO helps to ensure better control over access to sensitive data and reduces the risk of information leaks due to weak or shared passwords.
- Simplification of audits and risk assessments: SSO allows for easier tracking and evaluation of data access, which simplifies the audit process and risk identification.
Single Sign-On Standards
There are several SSO standards used at various levels. The most commonly used standards include SAML, OpenID Connect, and OAuth.
One of the standards used within SSO is Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0. SAML 2.0 is an XML-based standard designed for the exchange of authentication and authorization data between parties, particularly between an Identity Provider (IdP) and a Service Provider (SP).
SAML 2.0 operates based on the following fundamental components:
- Identity Provider (IdP): The IdP is a system that maintains and manages user identity. Upon successful verification, the IdP provides a SAML access token containing information about the user and their permissions.
- Service Provider (SP): The SP is an application or service that requires user authentication. The SP accepts the SAML access token from the IdP and provides access to the user based on it.
- SAML access token: This is an XML document containing verified information about the user and their authorizations. The token is generated by the IdP and provided to the SP to grant user access.
The SSO process using SAML 2.0 proceeds as follows:
- The user attempts to access an application (SP).
- The SP redirects the user to the IdP with an authentication request.
- The user logs in using their username and password on the IdP.
- The IdP verifies the user and creates a SAML access token containing information about the user and their permissions.
- The user is redirected back to the SP with the SAML access token.
- The SP verifies the access token and grants the user access to the application.
OpenID Connect and OAuth
OpenID Connect and OAuth are two other popular standards for SSO and authorization.
OpenID Connect is a modern authentication protocol based on OAuth 2.0 that allows users to share their identity among various services through a simple login process. OpenID Connect extends OAuth 2.0 with an identity layer and provides user information in the form of tokens – ID token and Access token.
OAuth 2.0 is an authorization protocol that enables applications to obtain limited access to users’ accounts on other web services, without the need to share passwords. OAuth 2.0 simplifies the process of granting access rights between service providers and end-users, increasing security and convenience when using various applications and services.
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Do you want to protect your company like this and improve the working experience for employees? When selecting new IT services, don’t forget to ask new suppliers if they support SSO to ensure they are compatible with your vision of corporate systems.