Why a Single Sign-On Actually Improves Security

Why a Single Sign-On Actually Improves Security

Have you ever wondered how some platforms will only have you log in once for all of your various needs, even though they might be different applications, websites, or services? This is essentially what single sign-on is, and it’s quite common in the technology world today. What is single sign-on exactly, and what kind of security does it actually provide for organizations that use it?

What is Single Sign-On?

Imagine that you use a single password or username to sign into multiple different accounts, not even those that are necessarily related. This is basically what single sign-on is. It is a centralized authentication platform where you use one set of credentials to access multiple applications or platforms.

As explained by CSO, “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.” You log in once, and that login can be used to sign you into other accounts associated with that login.

Think about it like this; rather than authenticate the user themselves, the application asks another application to authenticate the user for them, then allowing the user to access the application as if they had used a username or password pair in the normal way.

Why Is Single Sign-On Useful?

There are many reasons why single sign-on can be useful. Here are some of the following:

  • 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.

Isn’t That a Security Discrepancy?

It’s easy to see how single sign-on could create a security issue if it is implemented incorrectly. After all, what happens when that one credential gets stolen by a hacker? In reality, SSO does the exact opposite. It reduces the attack surface considerably, and with fewer opportunities for employees to create insecure passwords, the likelihood of attacks falls somewhat. In short, SSO is more likely to help than it is to hinder your security.

The biggest issue you are likely to encounter with single sign-on is adding new technologies or making adjustments to your IT infrastructure, as SSO implicitly ties together many different services.

The biggest benefit you can expect from SSO is by far the improvements to productivity. Since users will be logging in fewer times throughout the day, they can instead focus on getting work done, meaning more opportunities to improve your bottom line.

White Mountain IT Services can advise you on the appropriate way to secure your organization and potentially offer solutions for how to approach cloud sprawl. To learn more about what we can do for your organization, reach out to us at 603-889-0800.

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