One of the ways that businesses have approached the issue of having to log into multiple different accounts, applications, websites, and services is through the use of single sign-on solutions. It’s a common technology that you might see just about every day, but how does it work, and what kind of security can you expect from it?
Single Sign-On Explained
In the simplest terms possible, single sign-on is when you use the same set of credentials to log into multiple different accounts at once, even those that are not related. It’s a centralized authentication platform where you use the same set of credentials to access multiple applications or platforms at the same time.
CSO explains single sign-on a bit further: “In the most common arrangement, the identity provider and service provider establish a trust relationship by exchanging digital certificates and metadata, and communicate with one another via open standards such as Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), OAuth, or OpenID.” Basically, you log in once, and that login can then be used to sign you in to other accounts that are associated with that login.
If it helps, you can think of it like this; the application asks another application to authenticate the user for it, allowing the user to access said application as if they had used the same username or password pair.
How Useful Is SSO?
As you might expect, single sign-on can be quite useful. Here are some of the reasons why:
- Passwords are hard for employees: Employees who have to remember multiple complex passwords and usernames for various different accounts can often make mistakes or forget their passwords.
- Cloud sprawl is a very real thing: The more applications businesses implement, the more difficult it becomes to manage them all. SSO provides businesses with ways to authenticate users in a way that is beneficial for productivity and security.
- Easy IT management: IT administrators can more easily revoke privileges for accessing various services or applications, since there is only one pair of credentials associated with SSO.
Is SSO a Security Risk?
Considering all of these accounts have one set of credentials, it is easy to see how SSO could become a security risk if it’s not managed properly. SSO actually does the exact opposite of this, though, as it reduces the threat attack surface considerably, meaning there is only one authentication portal that could be hacked, leading to fewer opportunities for hackers to crack accounts. Employees are less likely to create insecure passwords for multiple accounts, too, as the same authentication portal is used for each service or application. Furthermore, with a centralized portal, you only have one point of entry to protect, making it far more likely that you will successfully deter hacking attacks.
Perhaps the biggest issue you will face with SSO is that it can become more difficult to add new technologies or make adjustments to your infrastructure, as everything is tied together thanks to the SSO solution.
All that said, the biggest benefit you can expect to achieve with SSO is the improvement in your productivity, as you won’t have to log into accounts multiple times throughout the day or risk getting locked out due to forgetting a password. SSO can make focusing on your work and accessing the tools needed to get it done much easier and more efficient.
If your business wants to optimize security and productivity, let us help you make these critical decisions together so you can go about your day in an informed manner. To learn more about what we can do for your business, reach out to us at (831) 758-3636.