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With all the attention on cybersecurity right now, it’s an important time for businesses of all sizes to re-evaluate what they’re doing in this area and potentially assess what they’re not doing as well. 

Along with high-profile attacks like the one happening to Colonial Pipeline right now, many businesses have their employees continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, which creates other cybersecurity challenges.

Single sign-on is something that any business should likely put into place, and the following are key things to know about what it is and how it works. 

The Threat to Passwords

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For hackers, login details are at the top of their target list right now. For example, the website Houzz, which focuses on home design, lost almost 50 million passwords recently. That’s just one in a string of so many attacks on user credentials. 

Single sign-on isn’t completely unbreachable, but it is one of the best foundational ways to reduce the likelihood of having internal or external user passwords stolen if your organization is the victim of a breach. 

What is Single Sign-On?

The idea of single sign-on is that there’s a centralized service for user authentication. One set of login credentials is used for your employees or users to access multiple applications. It’s incredibly simple but also effective and important right now. 

With SSO, there’s one designated platform where users are authenticated. 

Then, users can access the services they need without logging in and out every time. 

There are some big advantages to SSO, including the fact that it’s good for productivity and it reduces the burden on your IT team. It also gives you more security control. 

Administrators have the ability to both enable but also disable user access to different systems and apps. 

You’re running less of a risk of your users forgetting or losing their passwords, and it also minimizes the risk that can come with weak passwords. 

How Does It Work?

While there are differences in the specific implementation of SSO, they all follow the general theme that they help make it easier to authenticate users, and they do so through a third-party service or application. 

When discussing SSO, there’s the service provider, which is whatever the user might try to log into. 

Typically, these service provider platforms would have their own authentication process, but with the use of SSO, that responsibility goes to an identity provider. The identity provider is just another way of saying the platform for SSO. 

The service provider will have its own requirements for verifying users, which might mean biometrics or two-factor authentication. 

There’s communication between the identity and service providers through what are called tokens. Tokens are collections of information that provide trust between the parties. 

If a cyber attacker were to get the tokens or the system was breached, the password and identity of the user would still be secure. 

If you’re looking at SSO through the eyes of your system administrator, it’s a centralized repository for the ID management of users. 

Then, what happens if an employee leaves the organization, for example?

The access can be revoked all at the same time, which is, again, another way SSO significantly improves security and reduces IT burden. 

Benefits of SSO

While some of these have been touched on, the advantages of SSO are worth going into on their own. 

One of the big benefits is the ability SSO provides to facilitate stronger user passwords. Since a user only has to remember that one password, then they can make it stronger. It’s almost always the case that SSO leads to stronger passwords. 

There aren’t repeated passwords either. 

Using the same password across different services creates a big hole in your cybersecurity. The reason?

Everything is only as secure as the strength of that repeated password. 

It’s easier for your IT team to enforce their password rules when there’s a single entry point, and password resets are easier. 

Administrators have the option to enforce their own best practices and rules. For example, users might be required to re-enter their credentials after a certain amount of time to make sure they’re still active. 

There are a few downsides of SSO to be aware of, despite the many advantages. 

For example, some applications may need more security. With that in mind, choose an SSO solution that allows you to customize everything to your needs. SSO presents an important opportunity that’s so relevant right now to strengthen your password protection, needed due to both growing threats as well as more remote work.

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