Single Sign-On (SSO) – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Computer Security Glossary Terms

I. What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a method of authentication that allows a user to access multiple applications or services with a single set of login credentials. Instead of having to remember and enter separate usernames and passwords for each application, SSO enables users to log in once and gain access to all authorized resources without the need to re-enter their credentials.

II. How does Single Sign-On (SSO) work?

When a user attempts to access a resource that is protected by SSO, they are redirected to a centralized authentication server. The user then enters their credentials (such as a username and password) once, and the authentication server verifies their identity. Once the user is authenticated, a token is generated that grants them access to the requested resource. This token is then used to authenticate the user across all other applications or services that are part of the SSO system.

III. What are the benefits of using Single Sign-On (SSO)?

Some of the key benefits of using Single Sign-On include:
– Improved user experience: Users only need to remember one set of login credentials, making it easier and more convenient to access multiple applications.
– Increased productivity: SSO reduces the time spent on entering and managing passwords, allowing users to focus on their work.
– Enhanced security: SSO can help improve security by reducing the risk of password reuse and simplifying the management of user access.
– Cost savings: SSO can lower IT costs by reducing the number of password-related support requests and streamlining the authentication process.

IV. What are the potential security risks of Single Sign-On (SSO)?

While SSO offers many benefits, there are also potential security risks to consider, including:
– Single point of failure: If the centralized authentication server is compromised, it could grant unauthorized access to all connected applications.
– Credential theft: If an attacker gains access to a user’s SSO credentials, they could potentially access all linked resources.
– Lack of visibility: SSO can make it more challenging to monitor and control user access across multiple applications.

V. How can organizations implement Single Sign-On (SSO) securely?

To mitigate the security risks associated with SSO, organizations can implement the following best practices:
– Use strong authentication methods, such as multi-factor authentication, to verify user identities.
– Encrypt communication between the authentication server and applications to protect sensitive data.
– Implement access controls to limit user privileges and prevent unauthorized access.
– Regularly monitor and audit user activity to detect any suspicious behavior or unauthorized access.

VI. What are some common Single Sign-On (SSO) protocols and standards?

There are several protocols and standards commonly used for implementing Single Sign-On, including:
– Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML): A standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between identity providers and service providers.
– OAuth: An open standard for access delegation that is commonly used for enabling SSO in web and mobile applications.
– OpenID Connect: An identity layer built on top of OAuth 2.0 that provides additional features for authentication and user information.
– JSON Web Token (JWT): A compact and self-contained way of representing claims between two parties that is commonly used for SSO in modern web applications.