What is Single Sign-On? How Does it Work For Your Business?
Business enterprises and individuals find it challenging to keep track of all the different passwords and usernames needed for everything from your bank account to your email in today's world. This is where single sign-on comes in handy. Single sign-on (SSO) allows users access to multiple systems without needing separate credentials for each system. SSO also eliminates the need to enter and reenter usernames and passwords continually.
What is single sign-on?
Once you log in to the system with valid credentials, those same credentials can be used to access multiple other applications or services. The process of verifying a user's identity once and then using those verified credentials to log them into many different systems is called single sign-on (SSO). Single sign-on (SSO) is a set of methods and technologies that aim to simplify user authentication --- the process of gaining access to protected resources once you have logged in to an identity management system.
Single sign-on isn't new, but the traditional model of handing out passwords in exchange for access has had its downfalls in recent years. Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021 presented by IBM states that companies incurred a loss of $4.24 billion due to global average data breaches. It means that IT and network security becomes paramount for businesses of all sizes.
But single sign-on is only one piece in the puzzle when it comes to ensuring security. SSO makes it easier to log in, but companies still need to protect their networks with other security tools and strategies once inside. SSO helps users avoid creating too many digital accounts and the risks associated with many passwords lying around. Still, it doesn't prevent data breaches if proper network security isn't in place.
How does single sign-on work for a business?
Single sign-on enables businesses to protect themselves, their customers, and their employees by ensuring that user accounts are secure and reducing the number of passwords needed. This means less opportunity for a data breach and ensures that all users have access only to the resources they need.
If you are working on custom software development, SSO can help you protect your business by keeping you informed about every login. In addition, since all user information is stored in one place, SSO can help you monitor data access and ensure no sensitive information is getting into the wrong hands.
When a user logs into your system, they can seamlessly access any other business systems that a company has implemented single sign-on for. For example, if you use Microsoft Office 365 on one computer and Dropbox on another computer, you need to enter the usernames and passwords separately when logging into each system.
How exactly does it work?
Single sign-on (SSO) typically operates using a centralized identity management system that stores all users' accounts and passwords.
When you use SSO, you store your login credentials for each application in a central database. When you sign in to one application, the credentials are validated and automatically transmitted to all other applications that accept those same credentials. This is the optimal way of managing multiple accounts because it doesn't require filling out forms again and again for each service you want to register. Instead, you store your login information once, and then you can use it to access multiple applications.
Two Factor Authentication (2FA)
2FA allows you to secure your accounts beyond just a simple username and password. It typically involves using something you know (password or PIN), something you have (physical key, mobile device, etc.), and something you are as verification for logging in to an account. It is an additional security layer that makes it much more difficult for potential intruders to access your accounts. It is beneficial for financial institutions, e-commerce sites, and other applications that store sensitive user information.
Single sign-on in itself is not enough, but when combined with two-factor authentication, it can offer a measure of protection for accounts that would otherwise be at risk.
What are some of the benefits of SSO?
Single sign-on offers several benefits that can make it easier to access multiple resources from one place. After you’ve signed in once, your authentication information is stored in a centralized system allowing you to use just one password across multiple applications indeed. Some key benefits of SSO include:
Reduced costs – When you have one username and password shared between many different systems, you only pay for the accounts once. This means reduced employee hours spent resetting usernames and passwords or getting locked out of crucial applications.
Ease of use – Users can sign in to all their favorite apps using just a few simple steps. You don't need to create new usernames or passwords for every application. Once you are logged into one system, all other systems using SSO will automatically recognize your sign-in.
Security – If someone manages to get hold of a single password, it would be useless on any other application because the password is protected by that particular application’s own security measures. 2FA can be an added layer of security if the application allows it.
Efficiency - SSO creates an efficient way for users to access the resources they need in one place. They don't have to sign up for additional accounts on every application and website you use.
Security and SSO
If you have just one account to maintain, it cuts down on the possibility of a security breach by limiting the number of places where your credentials are used. Passwords can be vulnerable in multiple ways (weak passwords, bad password storage practices, etc.). Storing login data for every application an employee uses at work introduces additional risk since it could be stolen if one of the applications is compromised.
Single sign-on allows applications to share information without storing it locally on the user's device. The employees don't have to remember their credentials for each system and any potential dangers that come with password reuse (i.e., using the same password for multiple accounts).
Another security benefit of SSO is providing custom prompts to the user depending on the destination site or application. This makes phishing more difficult. For example, a bad actor's attempt at social engineering would be moot if they were required to specify which account was used for logging into the service before the credentials were entered. If a user with two accounts (for example, a personal and business account) attempted to log into an application using the wrong credentials, the system could present an additional prompt before allowing them access.
What are some disadvantages of SSO?
While single sign-on can make life much easier for businesses and users alike, it’s worth pointing out that you may also face specific challenges when setting this system up.
Technical expertise – Keeping your user credentials up to date in a centralized database will require expert IT work and coordination between teams. For example, if you need to add a new application or update existing ones on the list of accessible resources, it will not be enough to make the change once. You’ll have to do it on every single system where SSO is enabled.
False sense of security – With just a username and password to gain access, an unauthorized user could potentially use brute force tactics (i.e., trial and error with different combinations of login credentials) to find the right one.
Increased complexity – Although this may not apply to smaller businesses, this SSO implementation will require a higher level of coordination between teams. This adds complexity and can make it more difficult to manage user access for specific applications or resources.
The prominent players in the SSO space are:
Single Sign-On (SSO) - This includes protocols like SAML, OpenID Connect, and OAuth. These protocols allow users to pass authentication information from one application to another without retyping the same information every single time.
OAuth 2.0 - This is an open standard for authorization. Services like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft use this in the background when you post something on their sites or install an application from one of their stores. The user authorizes access to the data in question to do not have to reenter credentials every time the application is used.
OpenID Connect - This protocol is built on top of the OAuth 2.0 framework and adds specific features for use with single sign-on, such as allowing SSO to be used in conjunction with apps that were not written for SSO in the first place.
SAML - The Security Assertion Markup Language provides a way for systems to securely exchange authentication and authorization data (in the form of XML messages). It is an open standard that has been around since 2002 (originally under the name Web Services Federation Language). It is designed to be vendor-neutral, enabling systems from different vendors to work together.
What are some use cases for single sign-on?
Single sign-on is an excellent way to streamline access to different systems or applications for the end-user. Consider these examples:
Employee Onboarding – Signing up for each application when you start with a new job can be time-consuming and frustrating. Implementing a single-sign-on system will eliminate this initial inconvenience.
Marketing – With a single-sign-on system in place, it is easier for the marketing team to post content about new services and products to various social media channels. They won't have to worry about resetting passwords or verifying additional accounts on each site they want to share their updates.
Customer Support – Imagine your own e-commerce business and receive an inquiry from a customer on Twitter. It would be very time-consuming to have your customer service team go through the entire onboarding process again just for this one interaction. By using a single sign-on, they can quickly access the relevant account information without any extra hassle.
One-button Authentication – Applications like Amazon AWS and Salesforce provide a one-button authentication option that can be used to log in to other apps without the need for a username or password, just by using your existing login. This is an easy way to integrate several different systems without having to do any additional work.
Software Development of SSO Solution
SSO software is gaining more popularity these days, with several offices transforming towards hybrid work styles. Managing passwords, access permissions, etc., become much easier with SSO software.
Identity Management Software, commonly termed as identity access management software, is one of the best tools designed to help organizations manage the access permissions of different users on multiple devices. The identity management system prevents unauthorized users and notifies any malicious activity on a real-time basis. Selecting the best identity management software can be slightly overwhelming given the numerous options available today in the market. The best way is to check GoodFirms’ list of the best identity management tools.
With features like; Alerts & Monitoring, Credential Management, Forms Auto Filling, Multi-Factor Authentication, Password Generator, Password Reset, Password Storage, Password Synchronization, Secure Sharing, User Management, etc., Password Management Software poses to be an excellent investment for organizations today.
Logging in with SSO is just part of the story. The user also needs to log out. For example, a user logs in with SSO to Google Apps and browses for an hour. If he does not log out, his session will still be active after switching to other apps or browsers.
The application allows the user to log out from any device after the session is over. This process is called single-sign-off and is a secure way to ensure the user logs out from all applications after completing any task.
Single Sign-On is not a replacement for other security measures, but it does simplify authentication and access to your resources. The type of SSO provider you need will depend on the kind of application or service you're trying to protect. From the most basic password protection to multi-factor authentication with 2FA (2 Factor Authentication), there are many options available for companies looking to keep their data safe from breaches. Identify management software has fortified the security of the applications by preventing unauthorized access and manage the permissions of different users.
Those with limited budgets and keen on customizing the software can opt for free and open source identity management software. There are many software outsourcing companies and independent software vendors that can create a solution to meet the needs. What is important is to have a good understanding of your requirements so that one can compare different software products and choose the one you think is most suitable for your business.
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