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Single Sign-On (SSO) is an authentication method that allows users to access multiple applications and websites, with only one set of logins or credentials.  It’s a method for controlling access without using multiple passwords, making it more convenient than other methods. It is also leveraged by the security model known as zero trust, which uses SSO as its preferred authentication method.When Single Sign-On and Zero Trust are used together, the benefits can be significant.  Let’s explore this further.

Single Sign-On (SSO) Explained

Most of us are using SSO regularly every day. Those websites, apps, and games allow you to log in with your Google or Facebook credentials? That’s a form of SSO. With SSO, users can transparently log in with the same, single identity to multiple systems.  In laymen’s terms, this means that users don’t have to manually enter their credentials because they are transparently authenticated and validated by a central server.

Authentication is based on tokens connected with user information, credentials, or certificates. SSO allows websites to use other trusted sites to verify users, Facebook and Google being two such sites from our example. This saves businesses from having to hold passwords in their databases, and it also saves users from having to re-enter and remember multiple passwords during sessions.

SSO systems work as an identity provider, much like an ID or driver’s license, which you must show when stopped by the police. It’s a great analogy since the police don’t personally verify your identity but rather run it through a trusted database that does the verification for them. SSO allows certain trusted providers to be the official database for identities, and other sites trust them to verify who you are.

Benefits of Single Sign-On

SSO is clearly a good concept, but let’s look at the specific benefits.

  1. Better Security – Passwords are a threat to organizations and individuals. User-friendly passwords are often used, and passwords are shared and written down, posing a danger for unauthorized access. Cyber-criminals also use advanced methods to test and replicate passwords, even when they’re strong. SSO eliminates the need for multiple passwords and centralizes access via a trusted source, which is much more secure for all parties.
  2. Improved User Experience – Let’s face it – Remembering passwords and the various versions of passwords used for different sites and apps is frustrating. People forget passwords, and it’s time-consuming to revalidate identity and get a password reset. SSO saves time, avoids frustration and allows users to seamlessly and safely access websites.
  3. Access Control For Organizational Governance – Controlling who has access to systems and files is an essential aspect of governance for organizations, especially those with sensitive data. SSO allows organizations to know precisely who has access to what and can track and monitor this access without worrying about shared passwords and potential data breaches.
  4. Improved Productivity – Typing in logins and passwords and regularly assessing and renewing passwords takes time. It might not seem like it, but it’s a cumulative calculator. When an employee needs to access various files, sites, and other facilities multiple times during a working day, constantly using their password is frustrating and a waste of valuable work time. SSO eliminates this need and allows a smooth, efficient and streamlined user experience.

Zero Trust Explained

Zero Trust is a security model that guarantees secure connectivity by eliminating transitive trust. Instead, it uses a continuous system of identifying and authenticating all devices, users and identities before allowing them access. The motto is “never trust, always verify.” As such, it’s a trusted and secure method for keeping access and data as safe as possible. The zero-trust security model essentially chooses identity-based parameters over network-based parameters.

The Zero Trust Principles are as follows:

  • Never trust – Users and devices are never trusted until they are verified, no matter what.
  • Always verify – A continuous verification and authentication process is necessary before granting access.
  • Identity is the preferred perimeter – Legacy perimeter security creates network vulnerability by providing unsolicited access to anyone in the network, including attackers. Zero trust validates a user’s unique identity.
  • Asset protection – Zero trust prioritizes the protection of assets, not networks.
  • Keep it simple – Zero trust enables more straightforward and more effective security measures.
  • Monitoring and Auditing – Zero trust enables security teams to monitor and control users from anywhere.

SSO and Zero Trust

The zero trust model uses SSO as an authentication method. Users must be authenticated via SSO before being provided access to valuable assets and apps. Each time a user wants to access an app, a token is transparently used to validate their identity. With passwordless SSO, passwords can never be used to log in.

With a zero-trust system in place, users can only connect based on their identity, as this is the most reliable and safe way to verify identity. SSO is, of course, all about identity too, and it is this similarity that facilitates the relationship between the two security models. When it comes to SSO and zero trust, many businesses engage experienced and technology and security providers to help them implement these protocols.    Conscious Networks is one such provider – offering a “conscious approach to technology” and a wide range of services to help businesses grow and profit with better technology. To find out more about how you can harness the full benefit of SSO and zero trust, contact us today!

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