What is Single Sign-On (SSO) and How It Works?
Single Sign-On (SSO) is a Cloud-based application that lets users get secure access to multiple On-Premise services with just one click by using a single username and password.
What is SSO, or single sign-on?
Single Sign-On, which is sometimes referred to as SSO, is a login method that enables users to access various apps by checking in with just one of their already established accounts. When there are multiple systems that can be accessed using the same password, SSO becomes a useful tool that can help us prevent repeated authentication each time the user is disconnected from a given service. When there are multiple systems that can be accessed using the same password, SSO becomes an even more useful tool. It is feasible for users to keep a valid session for all of the other applications that use SSO even after they have only identified themselves once. This makes single sign-on extremely simple for users.
By using the Single Sign-On identification system, it is possible to have multiple accesses with a single account; for instance, by signing in to Gmail, we will have account-level access to the various web applications that Google offers, such as Google Workspace, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Books, and so on. Using this system, it is possible to have multiple accesses with a single account.
How does “single sign-on” work?
People often ask, “What does SSO stand for?” Single sign-on is a tool for federated identity management (FIM), which is also called identity federation. It does identity verification, which is an important part of identity and access management (IAM). IAM is a framework that lets organizations securely confirm the identity of their users and devices when they enter a network. This is important if you want to give users access permissions and make sure they only have the level of access they need to do their jobs well.
SSO works because service and identity providers share and check login credentials. A service provider (SP) is usually a vendor that gives users and organizations products, solutions, and services, like an app or website. An identity provider (IdP) is a system that creates, manages, and maintains user identities and offers authentication services to verify users. Users can use SSO to access applications and websites through these trusted providers. This improves the user experience by reducing the number of passwords they have to remember.
SSO services do not store information about users or who they are. Instead, they usually work by comparing a user’s login information with information in a database or service for managing identities.
Single sign-on solutions take the following steps to make sure that a user’s credentials are sent from an SP to an IdP:
- The user goes to an SP, which could be a website or an app.
- The SP sends an authentication token, like an SSO system, to the IdP.
- The SSO response is sent back to the SP by the IdP.
- User will be asked to sign in.
- Once the user’s credentials have been verified, they will be able to use the SP to get to other websites and apps without having to log in again.
What does “Authentication Token” mean?
When a user uses an SSO service to sign in to an SP (service provider), an authentication token is made that verifies the user’s identity. A digital piece of information that is stored in the user’s browser or on the SSO service’s servers is called an authentication token.
The user’s apps will then check with the SSO service, which sends the token to the app to let it know that the request has been approved. SPs and IdPs pass authentication tokens back and forth to share, confirm, and verify user identification information like their username, email address, and password. This is very important for SSO protocols, which let identity verification happen outside of other cloud services.
How does SSO use SAML and OAuth?
To make sure they are valid, authentication tokens use communication standards. Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), the language used to write authentication tokens, is the main standard. Extensible Markup Language (XML) is used by the SAML standard to allow user authentication and authorization to be sent over secure domains. When SSO is used, SAML lets the user, the SP, and the IdP talk to each other.
Users must be authorized before their information can be used to give them safe access to multiple services with just one login. Open authorization (OAuth) is a framework that makes this possible. It lets different third-party services use a user’s account information. When a user wants to use an application, the SP sends a request to the IdP. The IdP then checks and verifies the request to let the user use the application. One good example of this is logging in to a website with a Facebook account instead of a username and password.
Both OAuth and SAML are different protocols that can be used with Single Sign-On. OAuth is used to give users permission, while SAML is used to verify users.
The top benefits of SSO-Single sign-on
No matter what you want to do on a website, you should always have a smooth time. No one likes having to remember different passwords for different sites. With SSO, these problems can be solved quickly and there are many other benefits as well.
Asking the IT department for help with log-ins wastes a lot of time and money on both ends. Instead, having a single point of access for all the different platforms cuts down on waste and makes people more productive.
Users are more likely to set strong passwords when they only have to remember one set of credentials. Because of this, there is less chance that someone will steal your password, which means that the integrated platforms are not at risk.
A single sign-on system can also be made safer by using two-factor authentication or even more than two factors.
SSO clubbed with risk-based authentication
SSO lets the user use one “key” to get into different web-based platforms. Some people might worry about their safety because of this. SSO can be used with risk-based authentication to make sure that each part of the integrated structure is safe (RBA).
With RBA, you and the security team can keep an eye on how users act on each platform. If a user acts strangely, has the wrong IP address, or fails to log in more than once, external identification verification can be asked for. If this check fails, the IP address or device won’t be able to get in again.
This combination can be very helpful in stopping cyber crimes like data theft, site damage, and resource draining.
Cuts down on password fatigue
With cybercrime on the rise, every website requires a different password. Most of the time, this requires a mix of capital and small letters, numbers, and special characters. “Password fatigue” happens when you have to remember many passwords for different websites.
Using an SSO method will give users easy access to the apps, which will improve their experience and make them less likely to forget their passwords.
Every website should put the user’s experience first. No matter how many cool things your site has, users won’t stay if it’s hard to log in.
You can give your users a modern digital experience with an SSO integration. The user will save time if they only have to log in once and don’t have to remember as many passwords.
Prevention to Shadow IT
Shadow IT is the use of unauthorized software at work, which costs the company money. This used to only happen when buying software, but now it happens a lot more and poses a bigger risk of identity theft.
The SSO method can be used to stop shadow IT. IT admins can use this structure to keep an eye on what employees are doing on the servers at work, keeping everyone safe from cybercrime.
Adoption of company backed apps
Users have an easier time getting into an application when they don’t have to deal with multiple logins. With SSO, this is easy to do, making the market for your company’s apps better and increasing the number of people who use them.
| Read More: The importance and top benefits of Single sign-on for businesses
Authentication Methods Utilizing a Single Sign-On (SSO) Login
Single Sign On (E-SSO)
Enterprise single sign-ons are typically deployed in settings that make use of enterprise application integration (EAI). Users are consequently granted access to all integrated apps inside an organization, regardless of whether the applications are hosted on-premises or in the cloud, so long as they have a single set of sign-in credentials.
Single sign-on for the web (Web-SSO)
This technique works well for webpages and web services. Its purpose is to authenticate a user’s identity on many apps at once without requiring repeated identification. External authentication is used.
An authentication proxy SSO server processes access data and verifies user identification. The result is then sent to the requesting online service or website. The SSO server and web service communicate using tokens invisibly to the user. When a user logs into a website or web service, the authentication system provides them a global token. The user enters the global token into the website, which verifies the value with the authentication system before authorizing access. If the user is already signed in, the SSO server sends their credentials and a local token to the website, indicating a successful login.
The concept of federated identity management, often known as federated single sign-on (SSO), expands the applicability of ordinary SSO technologies by bringing together numerous organizations under a single authentication framework. Traditional SSO enables users to gain access to many systems within a single business. FIM, on the other hand, enables users to gain access to multiple systems across multiple enterprises. Nevertheless, only one identity is required to authenticate the user when using either of these approaches.
Open ID is a decentralized method for implementing SSO technologies. It operates based on the concepts of a reliant party (RP) and an identity supplier (IDP). The RP is the website or service that is attempting to authenticate the user, whereas the IDP is the one who is actually performing the authorization by keeping a record of the user’s preferred identity (which is portrayed through a URL identifier called an OpenID). A user-agent, such as a browser, acts as the intermediary for the multipoint interactions that take place between the user, the RP, and the IDP.
OAuth is not a specific piece of technology but rather a standard that is open for anybody to adopt and use. Access Tokens are at the heart of its operation, and it enables single sign-on were before impossible. An interaction takes place between a client or user and an authorization server so that the user can receive an access token, which will assist them in validating their identity with a resource server. It is the responsibility of resource servers to hand over control of a resource to an authorized client.
After having their credentials validated, users (the client) can utilize a ticket-granting ticket or Ticket to Get Tickets (TGT) thanks to this protocol. A service ticket can be obtained through the ticket-granting service in exchange for a TGT (TGS). Service tickets give the user access to protected network services in exchange for a fee (for example, a mail server).
Authentication with Chip-Based Cards
Instead of using software to authenticate the same set of credentials, as is done in traditional single sign-on (SSO) methods, one can obtain comparable outcomes by employing hardware devices such as smart cards.
SAM is an acronym for the Security Assertion Markup Language
SAML is an open standard that is based on XML and has the potential to empower Single Sign-On installations. The SAML identity provider (IdP) and the SAML service provider make up its two constituent pieces (SP). At the beginning of the process, the principal or the user makes a connection request to the SP. In its turn, the SP will inquire about obtaining an authentication assertion from the IdP. When this is issued, the service provider either provides the service required by the user or makes the decision to opt out of providing it.
Different ways to set up SSO
Some SSO services, like Kerberos and Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), use protocols:
In a Kerberos-based system, a user’s credentials are needed to get a ticket-granting ticket (TGT). The TGT gets service tickets for other apps that the user wants to use, so they don’t have to enter their credentials again.
SAML is an Extensible Markup Language standard that makes it easy for secure domains to share information about how users are authenticated and what permissions they have. SAML-based SSO services allow the user, an identity provider that keeps a list of users, and a service provider to talk to each other.
With smart card-based SSO, the first time a user logs in, they have to use a card that has their sign-in information on it. After using the card, the user doesn’t have to enter their usernames or passwords again. Either certificates or passwords can be stored on an SSO smart card.
SSO implementation challenges
SSO appears like the greatest answer for most firms, but it has certain challenges.
SSO Integration challenges
Most firms struggle with single sign-on integration. It applies to system architecture and security procedures.
Most organizations use ERP or SAP-type systems, which are far from current network structure. Modern applications use cutting-edge technology.
For seamless cooperation, a middle ground is needed. It would allow a single sign-on for all these systems.
There are many service providers that offer single sign-on and approve users on integrated systems. It should find the user’s information in the database, notify other apps that the user has signed in, and authenticate the user’s identity.
This integration must be available for each relevant system entity, such as a mobile app, online store, website, or loyalty program. Diverse integration points make seamless SSO difficult to achieve.
Consistency and interface challenges
Internal company systems can have monotonous UIs. The authentication mechanism must use a standard interface.
Implementing the same policy and template across platforms ensures consistency. If the projects are built by distinct teams, including product owners and front-end developers, perfect similarity is difficult to achieve. Each product owner applies their vision on the project, resulting in varied outputs.
SSO centralizes each platform’s login page. Because of this, every customer-facing system will have the identical login window.
Scheduling coordination challenges
Single sign-on involves many systems. The implementation can be done in stages, starting with one system and then adding the others. Even with phases, there will be obstacles.
Due to these challenges, SSO should be implemented across all relevant systems concurrently. Both the company and its customers will profit. Preventing trial-and-error will save the company time, money, and resources. Users can use centralized login across platforms.
Impact of performance
The SSO login process involves system and software redirections. The underlying redirection is slow when a user logs in or is automatically logged in owing to “Remember Me.”
A domain change and redirection caused this. The user waits longer. If the SSO system lags even slightly, all users will experience a delay.
SSO slowdowns can have several causes. Consider two SSO channels. Two routes can reach the SSO login page. Then, three additional channels are added. Five channels can now access SSO login. This rapid traffic spike can slow down SSO, increasing user wait time.
Staggered SSO implementation degrades performance. Separating login and permission will increase login time in this solution.
This issue can be avoided by giving the SSO system an elaborate architecture to efficiently process requests.
SSO is great for a company, but it has drawbacks. A corporation must have a troubleshooting strategy and user complaint procedures before deploying this structure.
All SSO-integrated systems need support teams. Their job is to collect all reported issues and requests and determine if the fault is with the company’s system, the SSO software, the user, or somewhere in between. This is the best way to tackle system problems.
Single Sign On (SSO) Pros and Cons
|Access to the programs used by the user can be streamlined.||The use of a single password increases the likelihood that a password may be compromised.|
|Helps alleviate the burden of having to remember many passwords||When the SSO fails, access is denied to any systems that are assigned with|
|Simple to put into operation and to connect to new data sources||Phishing and identity theft are at a higher risk in user-external accesses because of increased opportunities for both.|
Single Sign On is a type of authentication system that is useful for organizations since it relieves users of the burden of having to remember several passwords. In addition to this, it provides a number of substantial benefits that are directly connected to the enhancement of safety. This, in turn, results in a reduction in the number of calls made to technical support or the information technology department to resolve issues linked to password security.
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