The expanding threat surface in a perimeter-less work environment has prompted businesses to adopt tighter security measures with multiple layers of authentication. In the meantime, these increased layers of checks, though needed to minimize threats, have added to end users’ difficulties in accessing what they need to work daily.
Today, business users need access to many cloud-based as well as on-prem applications on demand. And with a hybrid work model emerging as the new workspace trend, users connect to corporate resources from anywhere using any device and over any network.
While maintaining a tight security posture is paramount given the unprecedented rise in cyberattacks in recent times, IT cannot ignore the impact of subpar user experience on overall productivity and business growth. Thus, IT teams must balance the enterprises’ needs for authentication with a frictionless user access process. But it is easier said than done. Securing a vast number of applications in a hybrid environment while providing a great user experience remains a challenge for most organizations.
Password-only authentication is passé
Modern-day businesses need to foster productivity and improve user experience without compromising security. Though most users are used to password-based login mechanisms, they are highly susceptible to being stolen or shared and thus do not provide adequate security. In fact, they do not ensure great user experience either, as managing several different passwords can be highly frustrating and challenging too.
Adding a second layer of authentication, like OTPs, push notifications or biometrics on top of generic passwords, may address security concerns associated with password-only authentication. But it might result in further deterioration of user experience and productivity if users are to be authenticated using MFA separately for every single application.
SSO brings in a balance with better security & simplicity
Single sign-on reduces the overhead of multiple logins by providing users with just one set of credentials to access all the corporate applications they need. Users do not need to remember individual passwords to access each account. Adding MFA with SSO provides strong authentications for all applications that require it, without any additional impact on user experience.
The backbone of SSO is the trust established based on a certificate that is exchanged between a service provider and an identity provider. This certificate signs all the identity information that comes from the identity provider so that the service provider can trust the information.
When a user tries to access an application or a service that they want to, the service provider sends some user information to the identity provider and requests for authentication of the user. The identity provider first checks if the user has already been authenticated. If the user has been authenticated already, the identity provider communicates the same to the service provider and the user will be granted access. If the user is yet to be authenticated, he/she will be prompted to provide his credentials to get authenticated. Then the identity provider will validate the credentials provided and will send back a token containing bits of information about the user, to the service provider for confirming successful authentication. This token is validated by the service provider as per the initially established trust relationship and the user is granted access.
Thus, the entire authentication process is simplified, with the information exchange happening in the backend, and user experience is improved without any sort of compromise in security.
Some of the key benefits that businesses can derive from single sign-on are:
Better user experience: SSO provides a frictionless login experience by providing one-click access to corporate applications. It eliminates the need for repetitive sign-on attempts and managing multiple passwords.
Improved security: SSO reduces the number of passwords that users must manage and thus reduces the identity-attack vector and improves the security posture.
Reduced burden on IT teams: The drastically reduced number of login attempts result in reduced number of authentication-related support issues raised and frees up IT teams.
Thus, single sign-on becomes one of the most desirable features at any modern-day workspace to empower end users to use a single username and password to access all the productivity apps that they need. This mitigates security concerns while improving user experience and productivity.