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The Pros and Cons of Single Sign-On Systems

We live in an age when everything is under threat. The plethora of bad news threatens our emotional strength. Pandemics threaten our physical health. Uncertainty threatens our financial stability. Security is never guaranteed; fragility is an almost certainty. What about our technology? Worryingly, more and more of our lives are supported by technological frameworks uploaded onto the ethereal cloud. What can be done to protect our valuable virtual assets? Fortunately, there are many things that businesses can implement to protect themselves, and various cybersecurity investments to be made that can improve the resilience of your business. One of these things is an SSO system or single sign-on system. What is this system? What are the benefits? What are the issues? We’ll find out more in this article.

What is a Single Sign-On System?

There are various authentication schemes available for implementation today, and single sign-on systems are just one example. These systems allow users to log in to several related software systems with just one ID, even though they are independent systems in their own right. It enables the user to log in just once and still be able to access multiple services without needing to enter the authentication factors again and again. A simple version of these systems can be accomplished by using IP networks and cookies, as long as the sites have a DNS parent domain in common. A single authentication allows the user to have access to multiple systems by seamlessly passing the authentication token to the configured applications.

Of course, different applications require different authentication mechanisms, so it’s not as simple as it sounds. Just as the keyword to enter a room needs to be translated when needed in a different language, a similar virtual process occurs when it comes to a single sign-on system. Single sign-on systems store the credentials needed for the login process internally and then translate them to the format supported by the connected applications. It massively simplifies the use of various applications within a business and saves a lot of time for busy workers. To put it into a real-life situation, say you are logged in to read your emails on Microsoft Office. Then, you need to join a virtual meeting on Microsoft Teams. How can you do so quickly and seamlessly? With the use of an SSO system! Applications like this have made single sign-on systems not only important for security but for helpful for ease of use too.

The Benefits of a Single Sign-On System

There are various advantages to single sign-on systems. These include:

  • Reduced risks for access to third-party sites. This is because the user’s passwords aren’t stored externally but internally.
  • Password fatigue, the feeling of exhaustion experienced by users who need to constantly enter passwords, is significantly reduced. Similarly, the time involved with this re-entering of details is reduced too.
  • There are fewer calls made to the IT helpdesk about issues with passwords, which reduces IT costs and gives the team more time to deal with more important issues.
  • The administration of authentication is massively simplified as the tasks are done transparently and are part of standard maintenance procedures.
  • There is a great deal of administrative control as all the necessary management information is stored in a single location with a single list of all the various users and their rights and privileges. The administrator can easily adjust the privileges of a certain user and know exactly how that will affect their access rights across the whole network.
  • Users spend less time entering login information, and their productivity is greatly improved. It will also be a blessing for help desk workers who have fewer requests for forgotten passwords.
  • The security of the network is improved as removing multiple passwords reduces the risk that comes with users writing down their passwords because they can’t remember them all.

The Downsides to a Single Sign-On System

Besides the many advantages, there are some downsides that need to be considered if you’re thinking about implementing this kind of system in your business.

  • As with many things, the bigger the company, the bigger the bill; while providing benefits for smaller companies, bigger companies will bear the burden of the bigger bill. Many providers charge for the features, of which many are add-on charges, so it doesn’t take long for the investment to turn into a costly one.
  • It’s not as versatile as other security procedures as it is mainly limited to web apps. To be able to create a complete IAM solution, IT teams need to implement a lot more solutions.
  • While it’s great only needing to remember one password, that one password needs to be a very strong one. It is only truly secure when it is a long and complex one which creates the possibility that the user will forget their password. And in this case, if you forget the password to one application, you forget the password for them all!
  • If the providers of your single sign-on system are hacked, there is a great deal at stake. Essentially, one attack means that an entire company could become compromised.
  • Shared computers also face a problem. When staff use shared computers, such as in a conference room, and someone forgets to log out, it leaves the business open to attack.

After weighing up the pros and cons, you likely see that the advantages are great, while the disadvantages can be mitigated with the correct training and usage of a single sign-on system. You can improve the security of your business with the use of this system. The lives of your staff members are made easier as they only need to remember one password, and they can quickly get on with their work. With a little research and investigation, you can find a provider that will suit all of your security needs.