What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?

Meaning & Definition

Single Sign-On (SSO)

Single Sign-On (SSO) is an authentication and access control process that allows a user to log in once to access multiple applications or services without having to provide separate login credentials for each of them. SSO simplifies the user experience, enhances security, and streamlines access to various systems by providing a unified authentication method.

Key features and components of Single Sign-On (SSO) include:

  • Centralized Authentication

Users log in to a single, central authentication system, which is typically managed by an identity provider (IdP).

  • Authentication Token

After successfully authenticating with the central system, the user is issued an authentication token, often in the form of a security token or a browser cookie.

  • Token-Based Access

The user presents this token to access various applications or services. The applications trust the token and grant access without requiring the user to enter their credentials again.

  • Federated Identity

SSO enables federated identity, where user identity and authentication are shared among multiple organizations, applications, or services.

  • User Experience

SSO simplifies the user experience by reducing the need to remember multiple usernames and passwords for different services. Users can seamlessly access various resources with a single login.

  • Security

SSO can improve security by centralizing authentication and allowing organizations to enforce strong authentication methods and access policies. It also simplifies the process of disabling access when needed.

  • Logging and Auditing

SSO systems often include robust logging and auditing capabilities, allowing organizations to track user access and monitor security.

  • Logout and Session Management

SSO systems include mechanisms for securely logging users out of all connected applications when they log out from one, and for managing session duration and idle timeouts.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Some SSO systems support multi-factor authentication, adding an extra layer of security by requiring additional authentication factors, such as a one-time code or biometric verification.

SSO is commonly used in various contexts, including:

  • Enterprise SSO

In organizations, SSO simplifies access to multiple internal applications and resources, such as email, intranet, HR systems, and cloud services.

  • Web Applications

Many web applications and websites offer SSO using popular identity providers like Google, Facebook, or Microsoft accounts, allowing users to access various online services with a single login.

  • Cloud Services

Cloud-based identity providers and SSO solutions are widely used to manage access to cloud applications and services, enhancing security and user management.

  • Education

Educational institutions use SSO for students and staff to access learning management systems, libraries, and other resources.

  • Healthcare

In healthcare, SSO simplifies access to electronic health records (EHR) systems and patient data while ensuring compliance with privacy regulations.

  • E-commerce

E-commerce sites may offer SSO to improve the shopping experience and streamline user accounts across multiple brands or services.

  • Government

Government agencies implement SSO solutions to improve access to government services and systems, enhancing efficiency and security.

Single Sign-On is a valuable technology for organizations and users alike, as it balances user convenience with enhanced security and simplifies access management for administrators. It is especially useful in situations where users need to access multiple systems and services regularly.

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