What is SSO and How Does it Work?

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What is single sign-on (SSO)?

Using a single sign-on (SSO) technology, you can log into many applications using the same login credentials. SSO allows a user to access all of their SaaS services from a single login page by providing a single set of login credentials (username, password, etc.).

With SSO, it’s common to utilize it in a business setting where user applications are allocated and managed by an internal IT team. SSO is also beneficial for SaaS apps used by remote workers.

Many identities and access management (IAM) or access control systems use SSO as a key component. Each user’s access level should be determined by verifying their identification. To manage user identities, Cloudflare Zero Trust interacts with SSO solutions such as Google Authenticator.

What Is the Process of Logging Into an SSO Account?

Marching into the inevitable digitally transformed future, we must adapt to our increasing needs while maintaining an adequate security level. This is where single sign-on marches in. To verify a user’s identity, SSO services generate a unique token each time they authenticate a user. An authentication token, similar to a temporary ID card, is a piece of digital information saved in the user’s browser or on the SSO service’s servers. When a user visits an app, the SSO service is notified. Users are granted entry when their authentication tokens are passed to apps through SSO. The SSO service will prompt the user to sign in if they haven’t already.

Because SSO services do not maintain user IDs, they cannot remember who a user is. Most SSO services employ a separate identity management service to verify user credentials.

What Are SSO Tokens Used For?

SSO relies heavily on the ability to share an authentication token with third-party apps and services. SSO is made possible because of the separation of identity verification from other cloud services.

Authentication tokens, like stamps, must adhere to a set of requirements to verify that they are valid and proper. Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is the primary standard for authenticating users. SAML is a language similar to HTML (HyperText Markup Language), used to exchange authentication tokens.

How Does SSO Work?

Any app wishing to utilize SSO must have an identity provider (IdP) in place, which is an organization that manages the authentication process. Tokens, the encrypted pieces of data that verify a user’s identity and rights, are issued by this server.

The user’s username and password are sent to the identity provider for verification the first time they log in. After verifying the user’s credentials, the authentication server launches an SSO session in the user’s browser.

Service providers do not ask for a password when a customer requests to access an application in a trusted group; instead, the identity provider authenticates the user.

As a result, authentication is granted without a sign-on screen ever being shown to the user by the identity supplier. This helps improve overall UX, and we all know the importance of user experience.

Types of SSO

SSO solutions used to be easier to implement when all apps ran on-premises. Rather than having to re-enter a login and password every time an app was used, an employee could just sign on to an SSO session, which would authenticate them against the single directory. This is the most basic kind of SSO.

Business settings, on the other hand, are far more complicated these days. More powerful SSO solutions are needed to handle the expansion of on-premises, cloud, and SaaS applications—but the value of SSO increases exponentially. Federated SSO is a common practice in today’s businesses, allowing numerous companies and security domains to be authenticated using a single set of credentials. A trusted set of “service providers” may be accessed securely using SSO, even if the apps are owned by third parties or located outside of their firewalls.

What is Cloud SSO?

Cloud SSO is another type of single sign-on. Enterprises today rely heavily on the cloud for a variety of business functions. Cloud SSO is becoming increasingly popular as more employees work from home and consumer expectations rise. Cloud SSO allows users to authenticate their cloud-based apps and services with a single identity for trusted providers and centrally manages their access to this. Also, cloud SSO accelerates the process while providing users with safe access to numerous apps and services by removing the need for re-authentication.

Standards for SSO

SAML, OAuth, and OpenID Connect are the identity technologies used to facilitate this interaction. Using standards, numerous service providers and identity providers can safely exchange personal identification information. If there were no standards, each connection would have to be developed from scratch, which would rapidly become unsupportable.

Newer standards have been set up over the years that are better for web-based and SaaS-based apps than older standards that work better with older apps. There are a few different standards because older standards work better with older apps. Any SSO system for businesses should be able to accommodate all of these, as they each have their advantages.

Benefits of SSO

It’s getting more difficult to keep track of so many identities and passwords, whether it’s for social networking, online shopping, team communication tools, or specialized business programs. Over 80 percent of people aged 18 and above admit to using the same password on several accounts since it’s simpler to remember than complex ones.

Customers and staff alike find it inconvenient to have to log in again. The passwords for different portions of an online business’s website may be different. Employees may be required to sign in to each business application separately if their employer so desires. 

For the easiest, safest experience across all channels, SSO lowers the risk of security breaches.

google sso

Google SSO

Most people have and use a Google account. It is the easiest, most widespread way to use your Google SSO for everything. Furthermore, you can link all your accounts with Google SSO, and even link your devices. With Google SSO, you can access any file or document you have on your computer with your phone, and vice versa. Talk about making it easier!

A Better Experience

The simplicity of one-click access to several apps is made possible by SSO, which eliminates the need to sign in to each one separately and to keep track of various sets of credentials. Customers and partners benefit from a seamless experience that makes doing business simpler, while employees can be more productive. A fundamental advantage of SSO on mobile devices is that consumers use their phones for everything, and 72 percent of firms accept or intend on allowing “bring your device”.

Enhanced Safety

SSO reduces an organization’s highly focused attack surface to a single point. Furthermore, a single set of login credentials may be kept more securely. As an example, token-based SSO keeps user data more secure by preventing passwords from being sent or stored on user devices.

Reduced Prices

According to a Forrester Research study, password resets may cost businesses an average of $179 per employee each year. The IT expenditures skyrocket when the number of users is multiplied. Having fewer passwords means less time and money spent on user management, as well as fewer password resets.

Final Thoughts

If you like easy access to your accounts with just one click, then SSO is the thing for you! It makes both work and home life easy, as you don’t have to think of, type in, write down or memorize difficult and/or different passwords – you can simply have one password to access them all!