What is single sign-on (SSO) and How It Works? 2024

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By webfusionist.com

What is single sign-on (SSO)?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a session-based and user-authentication service that allows a user to use only one account with login credentials, such as an account username and password, to gain access to various applications. SSO is a solution for companies, small and midsize businesses, and individuals to facilitate managing multiple login credentials.

How does single sign-on work?

Single sign-on is a federated identity management system. The usage of this system is sometimes referred to as identity federation. Open Authorization (OAuth) is the platform that allows the information of a user’s account to be accessed by third-party websites like Facebook without revealing the password used by the user.

OAuth is an intermediary for the user, offering the user access to a token that allows sharing of specific account details. If a user attempts to access an app from that service, the service sends a message to the Identity Provider to verify. The service provider checks that the user is authentic and authenticates the user.

In a simple web SSO service, an agent module installed on the server that runs the application retrieves specific authentication credentials required for each user from a particular SSO policy server while verifying the identity of the client against a repository for users like one that is a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory. It authenticates the user to all applications to which the user is granted rights and prevents the need to enter passwords for future applications within this same period.

What Is a Single Sign-On (SSO) Authentication Token?

An SSO authorization token plays an essential part in an SSO process. The Identity Provider (IDP) generates the token when a user is authenticated. The token contains information regarding the user’s identity and their rights. It is the Service Provider (SP) that then recognizes the token and gives access to users without the need to re-authenticate. Tokens are generally encrypted to guarantee the safe storage and transmission of data from users.

How Are SAML and OAuth Used with Single Sign-On?

  • SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language): SAML is an open standard that uses XML to transfer authorization and authentication information with an IDP and the SP. It facilitates seamless SSO by permitting the IDP to transmit assertions regarding users to SP, allowing access to the user based on these assertions.
  • OAuth (Open Authorization): OAuth is a second protocol used in conjunction with SSO, which is often used when a user needs to give access to their personal information without divulging their passwords. OAuth allows users to allow third-party software to connect their information through a different service provider. OAuth improves security and control for users for SSO scenarios.

How Secure Is SSO?

A single sign-on is only an optimal solution for some scenarios. There are some SSO implementation issues, including the management of costs, uniformization (OAuth and SAML), control, and security. Security vulnerabilities in authentication (i.e., security flaws such as the “Sign In with Apple” and Microsoft OAuth vulnerabilities) allow hackers to sign in to a website site or service and pose as the user they want to target.

Considering how SSO platforms are integrated into the overall IT architecture is also crucial. It is essential for organizations to carefully set up and configure their SSO solutions to ensure their security measures. In certain instances, SSO systems block security products from identifying a user’s primary IP address when they attempt to sign in to the network.

However, single sign-on could be more secure than alternatives to manage access to a Company’s services. For instance, some businesses require users to maintain distinct logins for each service, which can lead to additional security concerns.

SSO can help reduce the risk of attack on IT infrastructure. Users do not have to remember multiple passwords and don’t need to input credentials numerous times daily. Centralized admin allows administrators to implement more robust security measures such as MFA and good password practices. SSO does not render system security less and generally helps improve security.

Advantages and disadvantages of SSO

Advantages of SSO:

  • Users must keep track of fewer passwords and usernames for every application.
  • It is easy to sign up, and using apps is made more accessible without the need to enter passwords again.
  • The risk of being phished is decreased.
  • Help desks for IT are expected to receive fewer complaints or issues with passwords.

Disadvantages of SSO:

  • It does not cover certain types of security that a user sign-on for an application may require.
  • If the availability is not restored, users are blocked from the systems connected to SSO.
  • If unauthorized users have access to the application, they may be able to access multiple applications.

How is Single Sign-On Implemented?

Single-sign-on (SSO) usage may be a handle that requires coordination and arranging between an character supplier and benefit suppliers. The primary step to executing SSO is to choose one character Company that can back the essential conventions for SSO, like SAML, OAuth, or OpenID Interface.

After the character supplier is chosen, the chosen benefit supplier must be designed to get SSO demands from personality suppliers. This more often than not implies arranging administrations to acknowledge the character supplier and utilizing a legitimate SSO convention.

The character supplier ought to moreover be set up to verify clients and supply the desired qualifications to benefit suppliers. In expansion, the single sign-on (SSO) framework ought to be tried to guarantee that it is working accurately which clients can get to the assets they have been permitted.

7 Key Points to Consider While Choosing a Secure Single Sign-On Solution

1. Support for Developers

Check that your SSO solution has an API that supports life-cycle management and SDKs for the major platforms.

2. Authentication

What are the additional layers of security? Find out if the system supports MFA adaptive authentication, automated forcible authentication, etc.

3. Federation

Find out if you can use the corporate identity provider you would like to use. Ensure it is compatible with Microsoft Active Directory, Google Directory, or others.

4. Mobile phones ready

Ensure your identity platform can support single sign-on (SSO) on mobile phones and is compatible with various multi-factor authentication systems.

5. Flexible rules governing passwords

It should be able to support the requirements for password validation, such as the ability to set the password expiration time limit for each password, along with password complexity and expiration alerts.

6. Safety reputation

Verify if the site complies with security standards such as ISO 27017, ISO 27018, ISO 27001, SOC 2 Type 2, and global compliances such as GDPR and CCPA, etc.

7. Behavioral analytics

Find out if it permits you to allow or block IPs or set up responses to stop the brute force attacks and if there is a provision for authentication re-authentication.

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