Businesses typically have subscriptions to many different cloud services, including everything from Microsoft 365 products to workforce management software. With so many cloud services requiring unique login credentials, employees often reuse passwords between multiple applications. This poses a potential security risk as if one cloud service suffers a data breach, cybercriminals may be able to access all other accounts with the same username and password. Single sign-on (SSO) solves this challenge whilst improving a business’s security posture, improving the user experience and reducing costs.
What is SSO?
Single sign-on is a session and user authentication service that allows users to use a single set of login credentials to access multiple applications. The set of credentials is commonly a username, password and multi-factor authentication through a phone app or security key. With SSO, employees are able to use their standard login credentials once, and are able to access all the applications, systems and cloud services necessary to do their job.
How does SSO work?
Single sign-on works based on a trust relationship between an application (the service provider) and an identity provider, such as Azure Active Directory. When the user attempts to access an application the service provider sends a token that contains their email address to the identity provider. The identity provider checks to see if the user has already been authenticated. If the user has not been authenticated, they will be prompted to provide their login credentials. Once the identity provider has validated the login credentials, it will send a token back to the service provider confirming a successful authentication. The token is finally validated according to the trust relationship and the user is granted access to the application.
Benefits of Implementing SSO
Strengthens Security Posture
There is a common misconception that using a single set of credentials for all applications compromises a systems’ security. However, if employees and businesses follow best practices, single sign-on reduces the likelihood of a password-related cyberattack. As users only need to remember a single password, they are more likely to follow password best practices with a long, complex password that is not used on other platforms. It is strongly suggested that businesses that plan to implement SSO also use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security. If MFA is enabled, even if a cybercriminal has access to a user’s email and password, they will be unable to log in to any of the applications with single sign-on enabled.
Improves User Experience
As all businesses have undergone a period of digital transformation, employees use multiple cloud services and applications on a daily basis. The best practice for passwords is to have a different long, complex password for each application. Although this increases security, many employees struggle to remember every password, and this often leads to employees reusing passwords, posing a significant a security risk. SSO alleviates these concerns, as well as creating a better user experience, as employees only need to remember a single password, and can freely and easily swap between applications and cloud services without needing to re-enter their password each time.
The majority of IT support cases are due to password issues. The time spent dealing with these support cases could be better used on other projects and priorities. Single sign-on eliminates many of the common issues related to passwords, such as forgetting a password. With SSO, employees only need to remember one set of credentials and therefore are less likely to have to call IT support for assistance.
The primary concern associated with single sign-on is the fact that SSO creates a single point of failure. Therefore, if a SSO provider is breached, all linked systems are exposed. This threat can be mitigated through the use of MFA. Similarly, if an SSO provider experiences a period of downtime, this will mean that employees are unable to access the linked systems. Therefore, it is important to choose an SSO vendor with high reliability, such as Azure Active Directory.
Want to implement SSO in your business?
There are many benefits to implementing single sign-on within a business, and SSO is suitable for most businesses, regardless of size or industry. If your business is looking to improve their security posture, the user experience and reduce costs, SSO will do all this and more. To find out more, contact us today.