What is single sign-on?

Single sign-on (SSO) is an authentication method that enables users to securely authenticate with multiple applications and websites by using just one set of credentials.

How does SSO work?

SSO works based upon a trust relationship set up between an application, known as the service provider, and an identity provider (SSO solution provider). This trust relationship is often based upon a certificate that is exchanged between the identity provider and the service provider. This certificate can be used to sign identity information that is being sent from the identity provider to the service provider so that the service provider knows it is coming from a trusted source. In SSO, this identity data takes the form of tokens which contain identifying bits of information about the user like a user’s email address or a username.

Service Provider Initiated Workflow.

Is SSO secure?

The answer to this question is “It depends.”

There are many reasons why SSO can improve security. A single sign-on solution can simplify username and password management for both users and administrators. Users no longer have to keep track of different sets of credentials and can simply remember a single more complex password. SSO often enables users to just get access to their applications much faster.

SSO can also cut down on the amount of time the help desk has to spend on assisting users with lost passwords. Administrators can centrally control requirements like password complexity and multi-factor authentication (MFA). Administrators can also more quickly relinquish login privileges across the board when a user leaves the organization.

Single Sign-On does have some drawbacks. For example, you might have applications that you want to have locked down a bit more. For this reason, it would be important to choose an SSO solution that gives you the ability to, say, require an additional authentication factor before a user logs into a particular application or that prevents users from accessing certain applications unless they are connected to a secure network.

Benefits of Single Sign-On Solutions?

  • Increases Productivity
  • Reduces Risk by Minimizing Bad Password Habits
  • Reduces Help Desk Costs
  • Accelerates User Adoption of Company-Promoted Apps