We all use countless applications to do our daily jobs. Each of these applications requires us to put in a different set of credentials to access each account.
Let me ask this: Why should an employee have to remember a separate set of credentials for each one of these applications? What if they need to access 6, 7, 8+ applications daily? What if they start reusing passwords to make access to these applications easier? What can happen if your organization fails to remove access to one of the applications when an employee is terminated?
These are just some of the many questions that are raised in an organization’s identity management efforts. In a day and age where the importance of security is constantly rising, your organization needs to put processes in place to reduce the security risks mentioned above. One such process that can accomplish that is Federated SSO.
Federated SSO is all about the relationships between organizations. It utilizes an established trust between organizations and applications in order to provide streamlined access to the services users and employees need to do their jobs. By doing this, users no longer need to remember countless sets of credentials to log in to each individual application; they can access all of their applications with one set of credentials.
Let’s Dive into How Federated SSO Works.
It’s important to understand how Federated SSO works before we can see the benefits of it in action. The actual process of Federated SSO is relatively simple. First, there is the Identity Provider (IdP) which is the “gatekeeper” of your credentials. The IdP is where authentication of user credentials takes place—this is where you prove that you are really you.
Once you have successfully verified your identity in the IdP, a token is sent out to the Service Provider (SP) granting you access to a particular system/application. It’s important to note that the Service Provider never actually has access to your credentials. It simply takes the verification token that the IdP provides and grants access accordingly. This is the previously mentioned “established trust” between the Service Provider and the IdP in action.
If your IdP has a relationship with enough other Service Providers that all are using Federated SSO, then the benefits can really start to compound. The user can then access all of their applications (that are in the federation) with just one set of credentials, thus creating tremendous value for the user and the organization.
Security Benefits of Federated SSO
Imagine this: You are unfortunately in a scenario where you have to let go of an employee, Angry Adam. Adam, per his namesake, is very unhappy that he has been terminated and is now a potential risk to the organization’s security. Because the organization doesn’t have Federated SSO in place, Adam is still able to access all of the applications that he used in his job until a member of the IT department disables those accesses one-by-one. If credentials to each system/application are not disabled quickly enough, disgruntled employees like Adam can retain important access. Sometimes there can be systems/applications that are forgotten about, and employees like Adam could still access them months or years after termination.
Federated SSO reduces security risks by centralizing authentication. Rather than having to remove Adam’s access from all of the systems/applications one-by-one, all that is required is to disable his credentials in the Identity Provider. This instantly locks Adam out of all of the applications he previously used in one fell swoop.
While this may be an extreme example, the benefits are apparent. Any time an organization begins the offboarding process for an employee, they can remove the credentials from the Identity Provider and access to all of the SSO-enabled applications is removed.
Below is an infographic from Tools4ever on why your organization should be using Federated SSO.
By implementing Federated SSO, organizations can increase the security of their offboarding process. A few benefits are below:
- Reduce the risk of potential human errors in the offboarding process
- Eliminate lost/forgotten credentials that could have previously been accessed
- Securely offboard employees by removing permissions in the IdP
Shift to the Cloud
Having a team in place to manually remove permissions to all of the applications your employees use is the technological equivalent of using a Walkman in 2020. I strongly urge your organization to take the steps necessary to protect your sensitive data and information and slam the doorway shut on the security risks that your Angry Adams could present. There is a noticeable shift in identity management as more and more organizations switch to a hybrid or cloud environment. As this shift progresses, implementing something like Federated SSO can be a major advancement to your organization’s security efforts.