Businesses are constantly searching for secure, yet convenient, solutions to manage user access to the vast array of online services that they use daily. For many years this has been through a mixture of Password Policies, Password Management and Multi-Factor Authentication, however, new tools are being introduced to improve account access and user management. Enter Single Sign-On, commonly abbreviated as SSO—a tool designed to alleviate the complexities associated with juggling vast amounts of usernames/email addresses, passwords & Multi-Factor Authentication codes/tools. But what is Single Sign-On? How does it operate? And why it is beneficial for business online security?
What is Single Sign-On?
Single Sign-On is an authentication process that enables a user to gain access to multiple applications or online services by logging in to just one type of account. In other words, with SSO, you sign in using a single set of credentials (username, password, and multi-factor authentication for instance) and gain entry to a multitude of services without being prompted to log in again for each subsequent account which uses the same sign-in credentials.
How Does Single Sign-On Work?
At its core, SSO works by utilising a central authentication server (for example Microsoft Azure Active Directory). When a user first logs in, this server verifies the user’s identity and issues an “access token.”, this token is then used to grant access to other services within the same network or ecosystem. Here is an example of the process followed through SSO;
For a more detailed look at how SSO functions, OneLogin provides an informative explanation, which can be found here.
Over recent years many online services have integrated Single Sign-On user access to their services, for example, you may see a “Login with;” for Microsoft 365, Apple ID, Google, Facebook and many others. This allows you to use your sign-in credentials for any of these services to access accounts on other sites, in some cases you may even be able to associate more than one SSO Authentication method, as such allowing you to access you account through either Microsoft or Google, Google or Facebook and so on, allowing you the flexibility to be able to access your account through whichever method is most convenient.
However, it is important to note that you should ensure that you have multi-factor authentication for any account that you use for single sign-on to ensure that if your account credentials are leaked on the dark web, your accounts can not be accessed without elevated authentication from a code, manual authentication or biometric authentication. To find out more about Two-Factor & Multi-Factor Authentication, read our article about these forms of account security.
Benefits for Business Online Security
Streamlined User Experience
A seamless user experience is critical in retaining customer loyalty. SSO provides an uncluttered, frictionless user interface to access many accounts from a single set of sign-in credentials, making navigation across services far simpler.
Reduced Password Fatigue
Users typically employ weak or recycled passwords when faced with the prospect of remembering multiple sets of credentials. We have an article dedicated to Password Policies and why it is important to stress the “One Password, One Service” rule. With SSO, there's only one strong password to remember and one MFA for that SSO account.
Lowered Risk of Phishing Attacks
With fewer passwords to manage, the chances of falling victim to phishing schemes are significantly reduced. For example, if you are told you need to change the password for your “Adobe Account” however you know that you use Microsoft 365 to access Adobe through Single Sign-On, you know that this is a phishing attempt. Similarly, if your account credentials are leaked for your SSO account, having Dark Web Monitoring will inform you of this, and by having 2FA/MFA you can ensure that all of your SSO access is protected by your unique authentication method, allowing you time to reset your credentials without having to worry about malicious account access.
For businesses, the admin burden is drastically cut down with SSO. Rather than a business or IT department needing to attempt to reset passwords for every online account that a user may have access to, they can quickly and easily reset or remove a single user account to instantly block access to all associated SSO accounts. Unfortunately, not all online services provide SSO integration, however, we can work with your business to identify and set up those that do.
Single Sign-On solutions often come with robust compliance management and access auditing tools, enabling businesses to easily identify who has accessed what services and when allowing them to adhere to regulations concerning data privacy and protection.
How can TwentyFour help your business?
Single Sign-On is a powerful tool that offers a balanced combination of security and convenience. While it's not a one-size-fits-all solution for every security challenge, it brings a magnitude of benefits to password and account access/management, particularly in terms of enhancing business online security. Implementing an SSO system can simplify the user experience, reduce vulnerabilities, increase business security, help with the audit of access management and help keep the digital facet of your business secure and efficient.
Contact us to find out how we can help your business implement Single Sign-On (SSO) across your business accounts.