Single Sign On - Function, Application and Role of AI

Jan Schäfer

Single Sign On (SSO) is an elementary component of user authentication for companies. The service offers two advantages: On the one hand, companies improve the user experience of their customers with SSO, and on the other hand, they simplify internal access management and thus increase the efficiency of daily work processes.

But until that happens, companies need to find the right single sign-on provider and integrate it into their IT infrastructure. We'll show you what challenges and opportunities you'll face in the process and how you can use artificial intelligence (AI) to take SSO security to the highest level.

The most Important in a Nutshell

  • With Single Sign On, users log on to different websites and applications with just one authentication.
  • The most common single sign on methods include Web SSO, Mobile SSO and Social Media SSO.
  • With single sign-on tools, companies improve data security, increase employee efficiency, and enhance customer satisfaction.
  • With Konfuzio's advanced AI, enterprises elevate their SSO to the highest level of security. Try the software for free!
single sign on definition

What is Single Sign On?

Single Sign On is an authentication method that allows users to store their login credentials only once and then log in to different systems or applications. The method uses tokens or cookies to maintain the authenticity of users across different applications.

SSO improves the user experience by eliminating tedious repetitive logon processes and increasing productivity.

Additionally, it increases security as users have fewer passwords to manage, reducing the risk of password theft or loss.

Organizations use Single Sign On to facilitate access to internal resources and increase security by implementing centralized authentication and access control.

How does Single Sign On work?

SSO simplifies logon and secure access to various services through centralized authentication control, reducing the risk of password issues. How does SSO work in technical practice?

User login

The process begins when a user attempts to access an SSO-enabled application or service. This can be a web application, mobile app, or other digital system.

Forwarding to the identity provider (IdP)

The application detects that the user is unauthenticated and routes the user to an identity provider (IdP). The IdP is a trusted entity that manages and validates the user's identity.

User authentication at the IdP

The user enters his credentials, such as username and password, to the IdP. The IdP verifies this information and ensures that the user is legitimate.

Creation of an authentication token

After successful authentication, the IdP generates a special token called a Single Sign On SAML token (Security Assertion Markup Language) or OAuth token. A token is a small code or key used for identification and authentication in a security or access control process. This token contains information about the user's identity and the permissions they have for other services.

Return to the original application

The authentication token is returned to the original application that originally routed the user.

Access to services

With the token obtained, the application is now able to automatically authenticate the user to other linked services. It sends the token to these services to grant access.

Use of the services without renewed registration

It is now possible for the user to seamlessly access different services without having to log in again for each one. The token serves as proof of authorization.

By the way

The tokens often have a limited validity period. When a token expires, the user must re-authenticate with the IdP to obtain a new token.

single sign on species

Types of Single Sign On Configurations

Companies use SSO in various forms. Thus, the procedures refer to different platforms, application areas and functionalities. Which Single Sign On solution is the right one depends on the company's requirements for authentication, user-friendliness and security. You can choose from the following types of SSO:

SSO configurationDescription
Federated SSO (FSSO)Different services and applications use a common identity source, often via standards such as SAML or OpenID Connect, to manage user logins. The user authenticates once and gets access to different services without re-logging in.
Enterprise SSO (ESSO)Companies implement SSO within their own network, allowing employees to log in once to access various internal applications and resources such as intranet, e-mail and file sharing.
Web SSOUsers log in to different applications with the same credentials. This often involves protocols such as OAuth or OpenID Connect to enable seamless access to external services.
Mobile SSOUsers authenticate once on their mobile device and automatically gain access to various mobile apps and services.
Desktop SSOThis SSO model allows a single logon to a desktop computer and then grants automatic access to various local applications and resources.
Cloud-based SSOAuthentication is done through a cloud service that allows access to multiple cloud applications and services without requiring separate logins for each application.
Multi-protocol SSOThis configuration enables access to different applications and services, regardless of the authentication protocols used. To do this, companies integrate multiple authentication methods and protocols to allow users to access different systems.
Biometric SSOBiometric authentication methods such as fingerprint or facial recognition are used to allow users to access various applications and devices.
Social Media SSOUsers log in to various applications and websites with their social media accounts, such as Facebook or Google. The social media platform acts as the identity provider.
Guest SSOGuests or temporary users are given access to certain services or resources without requiring separate credentials. This is useful, for example, to facilitate access to Wi-Fi networks.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) SSOThe login is done in combination with a second authentication method such as a one-time password (OTP) or a security token to increase security.
Smart Card SSOThis SSO model uses smart cards or other identity verification hardware tokens to grant users access to networks and resources. Users simply insert their card into an appropriate reader.
Delegate SSOA user temporarily transfers his credentials to another user or system to perform certain tasks or transactions on his behalf.
single sign on benefits

Benefits of the Single Sign On Process

Single Sign On improves security, increases efficiency, reduces costs and increases user satisfaction. What do these benefits look like in detail?

Improved security

SSO increases security by encouraging users to use strong passwords. Since they only have to remember one password, they are more inclined to choose more secure options. This reduces the risk of vulnerabilities. For example, an employee uses the same simple password for multiple services, which poses a security risk. With SSO, the company ensures that this person uses a strong password.

Efficiency increase

With SSO, users only need to log in once to access different applications. This reduces the effort of logging in to each individual application separately. A practical example: An employee logs in to a large number of enterprise applications with a single click, which significantly speeds up daily work.

Reduced password reset requests

When users have fewer passwords to manage, there are fewer instances of forgotten passwords. A real-world use case: IT has to waste less time handling password reset requests because there is less likelihood of forgotten passwords.

Simple user management

SSO enables companies to centrally manage user access rights. When an employee's role changes or companies hire new employees, they simply update access rights. For example, a company immediately grants access to additional resources to an employee who is promoted to a managerial position.

Better compliance

SSO enables closer monitoring of user activity because the technology centrally records all logins and accesses. This facilitates compliance with security policies and regulations. After all, companies can clearly track who is accessing what data. For example: A company is able to more easily prove who has accessed personal data to meet data protection compliance requirements.

Cost reduction

By reducing password management tasks and preventing security breaches, companies save resources and money. A practical scenario: IT needs fewer staff to manage passwords and resolve security incidents.

Scalability

Companies seamlessly integrate new services into their SSO system. This makes the technology easily scalable. For example, if a start-up that is expanding rapidly uses SSO, it does not face the challenge of constantly redistributing access rights for new applications it needs. Once integrated with SSO, responsible employees have the right access.

Ease of use

SSO makes logging into different services easier and more seamless for users. A practical example: an employee logs in to all enterprise applications with a single click. This makes everyday work simple, which increases employee satisfaction.

Challenges of the Single Sign On Process

In principle, single sign-on tools bring companies numerous advantages. However, depending on the application area and functionality, they face various challenges. They usually prevent or solve these with careful planning of the SSO integration and consideration of user needs:

Integration complexity

When integrating Single Sign On into various applications and services, companies often face technical challenges. So, for example, if a company wants to integrate SSO into its existing email platform, it can take a lot of effort. This is the case, for example, if the email platform uses the SMTP protocol, but the SSO system uses OAuth 2.0. Adapting these different protocols requires careful technical implementation to ensure seamless SSO access to email.

Safety concerns

Security is a key concern when implementing SSO. If an attacker gains access to a user's credentials, they can access all services associated with the SSO account. So, for example, if an employee uses SSO to have straightforward access to various corporate applications, and if their SSO credentials are compromised through phishing attacks, an attacker is able to access not only corporate email, but also - depending on the employee's field of activity - sensitive financial data and customer information, for example.

Interoperability

If companies use different SSO solutions, it is possible that they are not compatible with each other. In practice, this happens especially in cases of mergers or corporate acquisitions. Incompatible SSO systems make it difficult to integrate IT systems seamlessly. This requires additional adjustments and investments in the IT infrastructure.

Ease of use

For SSO to actually improve the user experience, companies should not implement too many security hurdles. So, for example, if a company requires users to use a fingerprint scan and a one-time PIN in addition to their password to log in to SSO, it will result in a longer and more complicated login process. For users, this is inconvenient. It affects the user experience.

Access rights management

Proper management of access rights is critical to ensure that users access only the services relevant to their role. A real-world use case: A company has different departments with different access requirements. However, it fails to carefully manage access rights. The result: employees from one department inadvertently access confidential data from another department. This leads to data breaches.

Scalability

Companies need to ensure that their SSO solution can keep up with business growth. A lack of scalability leads to performance issues and disruption. A real-world example: A start-up company initially implements a simple SSO solution for its two dozen or so employees. Two years later, however, it rapidly expands and has hundreds of employees. If the SSO is not flexibly scalable, it overloads the SSO infrastructure.

Regulatory compliance

Companies need to ensure that their SSO implementation complies with applicable data protection and compliance regulations. A real-world scenario: a company stores customer data in the cloud and uses SSO to access this data. To meet the requirements of the GDPR, the company must ensure that the SSO implementation complies with the required data protection regulations and adequately protects personal data.

Are you unsure how to integrate a Single Sign On procedure into your processes? Then let our experts advise you individually now!

Criteria for choosing the right Single Sign On Tool

To find the right single sign-on tool, companies must first and foremost be aware of their own needs and requirements in terms of user experience, security, IT infrastructure , and privacy. Basically, they should pay attention to these 4 criteria:

Access to any application

A suitable single sign-on provider should enable access to a wide range of applications. This includes cloud applications as well as local software. In addition, the SSO solution should be flexible enough to easily support the integration of new applications.

Customization options of the SSO

Companies should be able to adapt the SSO system to their specific requirements. This includes, for example, the ability to customize the user interface, add their own company logo, and implement special authentication methods or security policies.

Integration of multifactor authentication 

The use of multi-factor authentication is crucial to increase security. The single sign on provider should therefore enable the seamless integration of different MFA methods such as SMS codes, tokens or biometric authentication.

Monitoring and troubleshooting

A powerful monitoring and troubleshooting system is important to monitor the status of the SSO solution and respond quickly to problems. To do this, it should provide real-time monitoring, logging of activities, and troubleshooting tools.

Single Sign On Provider

Companies will find a large number of single sign-on providers on the market. These have different focuses and are therefore suitable for different company requirements. The following providers are established providers:

ProviderAdvantagesDisadvantages
OtixoGood usabilityEnglish speaking support
Support for workspaces and many cloud servicesAdaptability and ease of use may vary
Auth0Automated provisioning and API usageProblems with domain name support
Quick familiarization with safety specificationsLimited language support in emails
Storage Made EasyGood usability and workspaces supportAdditional costs for the synchronization function
Access to many cloud providers thanks to File Fabric softwareLimited support
OktaEasy single sign on and management of web applicationsAutomatic selection of credentials for some websites
Industry standards support and easy navigationOverwriting the username selection, which may cause inconvenience
OneLoginSecure authentication for multiple applicationsThe software sometimes loads a bit slowly
Support of different MFA methods and integrationAdaptability and ease of use may vary
GlobalSignStrong authentication with MFA supportCertificate management can be time consuming
Automation of certificate management and signingAdaptability and ease of use may vary
LastPassSecurity with military-standard encryption and 2FANot very intuitive password import and customer service challenges
Additional features and affordable priceSome extensions can be started in non-binary mode, which makes the source code visible
Rippling360-degree solution for workforce managementNo free trial
User friendly interfaceSetting up workflows can be time-consuming

Konfuzio - Intelligent Single Sign On Tool with AI

With Konfuzio, companies give their Single Sign On the highest level of security. For this purpose, the German software combines artificial intelligence,, Machine Learning and Deep Learning.

In practice, this means that Konfuzio identifies patterns in user behavior so that their SSO immediately detects unusual login attempts.

This way, you identify potential security breaches immediately - and can react directly.

In addition, to make passwords more secure, Konfuzio's AI automatically identifies weakly chosen passwords and prompts users to choose stronger ones. The result for companies: They work with an SSO that meets the highest standards of IT security, data protection and privacy.

Try Konfuzio now for free! If you have any questions, our team of experts is always available via the contact form.

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