Single Sign On – What Is It?

The current digital landscape has developed at an alarming rate over recent years, and it has also felt as though terms such as ‘cyber threat’ and ‘cyber criminal’ are now common place in our work environment. Due to this rapid development, the strain on in-house IT teams has risen to – in some cases – unmanageable levels. That is where Single Sign-On comes in.


What is Single Sign-On?

Single sign-on is an authentication scheme that allows your users to log in to any related software systems with a single username and password.


How does Single Sign-On work

Having already accessed a website using SSO, if the user then needs to access a different website that has a similar trust relationship with the SSO solution, the authentication flow would follow the same steps.


Does SSO make my company more secure?

The average large organisation gives employees access to around 15 applications. Add to that the thousands of web apps (such as QuickBooks, Twitter, and Salesforce) that employees can sign up for – potentially without the IT team’s knowledge. This volume of apps, with all their different passwords, creates a challenging task for IT to guarantee protection over the network and all of the sensitive data that resides on it. By enabling employees to use just one sign-on, SSO solves the IT problem of having to manage far too many passwords.

On the other hand, what makes SSO convenient can also make it very dangerous. The ease of use it gives your employees by allowing them to access apps with just one log-in can also be passed to hackers. IT departments need to ensure some form of identity governance to make SSO more secure – many companies do this by centralising identity authentication on special servers that act as SSO gatekeepers. The way this works is, when an employee signs in their authentication passes through the SSO server, which then passes on the credential it has stored for authenticating that person to use that app.

Most companies that implement SSO want to make it as secure as possible, so many implement two-factor (2FA) or multifactor (MFA) authentication. Either – or both – of these improve the levels of security dramatically – they require your users to provide one or more additional authentication factors as well as their SSO log-in. The additional factor could come from a variety of different places (which could be – a smartphone, a fingerprint, a voiceprint, or a security code accessible via email or SMS). Having these different forms of protection implemented, if a hacker gets hold of an SSO login they would still have to provide one of the above additional factors in order to gain access to your sensitive data.


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