What Is Single Sign-On and What Are the Benefits? (And Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 27, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Single sign-on (SSO) is a service that enables users to sign in to various websites or computer programs using a single username and password. These systems are gaining popularity as they improve user convenience and create new opportunities for businesses. Learning more about SSO can help you improve workflow in a corporate environment.

In this article, we define a single sign-on, explain its benefits, provide a few examples of it, discuss some tips for creating strong SSO passwords, and explore some FAQs concerning it.

What is a single sign-on?

Single sign-on (SSO) is a type of authentication that enables organizations and enterprises to utilize other trustworthy websites to verify their users' identities when they log into an account. SSO enables access through a shared login password or identity. Large websites often use these solutions as a substitute for generating several passwords and accounts. SSO consists of a service provider and an identity provider.

A service provider might be a website, such as an email service, a social networking site, or a financial website where a user has an account. Typically, an identity provider is the SSO platform. When a user accesses a website that supports SSO, they may log in using their service provider's credentials. After verifying the user's details, the identity provider grants access.

Who uses SSO?

SSO can be an excellent method for organizations and people to take care of their passwords. It may be useful to the following groups:

  • Large organizations: Companies may choose to provide access to internal systems and software by authenticating employees with SSO systems.

  • Small companies: SSO may be useful to smaller companies for both staff and consumers. They may discover that offering SSO as a method of registering an account or buying a product on their website results in higher sales because of the convenience of SSO and the additional advantage of security.

  • Individuals: SSO simplifies the login process and keeps everything in one place so users can access multiple websites quickly and securely without having to remember individual passwords.

What are the benefits of SSO?

Single sign-on has several advantages in the workplace and in your own personal internet usage. These benefits include:

  • Facilitating password changes: Maintaining and alerting users to the many passwords they can use regularly may be a time- and money-consuming administrative operation for IT companies. SSO simplifies the process by requiring each employee to use a single password.

  • Minimizing workload for IT departments: SSO eliminates the need for IT staff members to create and manage individual user accounts across all the platforms their organization supports.

  • Improving support for website owners: SSO helps website administrators by removing the requirement to save passwords, cutting down on login troubleshooting, and reducing damages hackers can cause within the website.

  • Increasing efficiency: Users may also find that they can access more websites or create orders online more quickly, which can result in a more pleasant experience.

  • Building trust with employees and customers: Using SSO tools also enhances security because it's difficult for hackers to steal data from an account that they can't access. If hackers steal an employee's credentials, they won't be able to access any other systems.

  • Reducing help desk calls: Usually, help desk inquiries focus on password issues, such as when an employee forgets their password or needs assistance with accessing their account. SSO solutions may help reduce help desk calls, allowing the IT department to concentrate on larger projects or other organizational requirements.

Related: 10 Top Security Certifications for IT Professionals

Examples of SSO systems

When you choose SSO to access a website, it's not necessary to create a new password or account for each new website. Examples of SSO systems include:

  • Social media: Once you make an account with an email provider, you may use that login instead of registering on every site or service where available. For example, a video streaming website can use your email account for your login.

  • Job applications: Some job applications can import your information in one click from your professional networking profile. Instead of creating a new account on each company's employment website, you can use SSO to access the application and include your resume.

  • Software: Some companies choose to offer one system with email, calendars, and computer software accessible through one employee portal.

Tips for creating strong internet passwords for SSO

If you want to utilize SSO to access many websites, it's critical to maintain the security of your initial password or user credentials. For instance, if you utilize your email account to offer access to extra websites that support SSO, you may want to improve the security of your email password. Consider the following recommendations to assist you in creating secure, easy-to-remember passwords:

  • Use a long password: Try to create a password with 10 characters or more.

  • Consider using a variety of letters and symbols: Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols, such as an exclamation point, a percent sign, or an asterisk.

  • Ensure your password doesn't relate to your personal life: Consider creating a password that doesn't relate to anything personal in your life. If you would like inspiration, look to your favourite television show or sports team for character names or numbers.

  • Create a password with no patterns: Make sure that your password doesn't have sequential letters, numbers, or patterns. For example, don't put 1234 or QWERTY in your password, as hackers may guess your credentials.

  • Keep your password secure: Try to keep your password private by not sharing it with anyone, especially through email or text messages.

  • Use security questions for password recovery questions that are hard to guess: When you create an account online that offers security questions and answers, choose hard questions with answers not available online with a search of your name. Some security questions, such as the city where you were born, are easy to guess.

Related: How to Get Into IT (With Tips to Build Your IT Career)

FAQs concerning SSO

Here are some frequently asked questions about an SSO:

What is an SSO token?

An SSO token is a collection of information or data that one party sends to another during the SSO process. This information often comprises the user's email address and information about the system that is transmitting the token. All tokens are to have a digital signature indicating that the token recipient has verified the token's origin. The first setup phase enables the appropriate digital signature to exchange.

How can SSO affect security?

SSO has several implications for internet security. For instance, it may help minimize the occurrences of phishing, which happens when a fraudulent person sends an email to an individual requesting sensitive information, such as account passwords. SSO helps avoid this problem since users sign in with a single account.

Additionally, SSO may increase security by reducing people's reliance on weak passwords that are easy to guess. Because only one password is necessary to access various programs, they're more inclined to make their first password complex and tough to read.

Does SSO come with risks?

SSO introduces certain risks since an internet attacker may exploit a single vulnerability in the identity federation system. If an attacker exploits a single weak spot in an SSO system, they may get access to several applications that a user has previously visited. SSO also fails to handle the various security levels that applications require.

Additionally, if a person cannot access their main account or application, they risk losing access to several apps. Many individuals are ready to accept the associated risks of SSO for the convenience it provides.

Despite the limitations of SSO, organizations value the advantages of higher productivity and lower support expenses. The challenge is balancing the simplified advantages of SSO with acceptable levels of security. As with every obstacle, there is always a method to manage or mitigate problem areas to reduce the associated risk. For SSO, this entails identifying particular security flaws and applying solutions that improve security without jeopardizing the solution's convenience.

Related: 10 Top Security Certifications for IT Professionals

Does an SSO service sign users out of their sessions?

Typically, an SSO service does not have a single sign-off feature. Sign-off procedures differ across applications and websites and often depend on the application's settings. Often, user sessions stay active for at least a few minutes after a user completes their assigned duties. Users may safeguard themselves against malicious activities by manually signing out of the program when finished. Alternatively, they may examine the application's individual parameters to determine when the current session may end.

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