Businesses typically have subscriptions to many different cloud services, everything from Microsoft 365 to Client Relationship Management software. With so many services requiring unique login credentials, employees often reuse passwords between multiple applications. This poses a significant security risk – if one cloud service suffers a data breach, cybercriminals may be able to access all other accounts with the same username and password. SSO avoids the risk 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 (MFA) 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 and 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 validated 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 system security. However, if employees and businesses follow best practice, 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 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 SSO 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 risk. SSO alleviates these concerns, as well as creating a better user experience. Employees only need to remember a single password, and can freely and easily swap between applications, without needing to re-enter their password each time.
A large part of IT support cases are issues with passwords. The time spent dealing with these could be better used on other projects. Single sign-on eliminates many of the common password issues such as simple forgetfulness. With SSO, employees only need to remember one set of credentials and are less likely to have to call for assistance.
The primary concern associated with SSO is the fact that it creates a single point of failure. Therefore, if a SSO provider is breached, all linked systems are exposed. This threat should be mitigated by using MFA. Similarly, if the SSO provider goes offline, this will mean nobody can 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 you’re looking to improve your business security posture, the user experience and reduce costs, SSO will do all this, and then some. To find out more, contact us today.