When building your IAM strategy, Start with Single Sign-On

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By Matthew Dubie

Wondering where to start in building or improving your business’s identity and access management (IAM) strategy? Your goal is to securely connect employees to work resources with visibility and control, all while making work easier – not harder – for employees. The more “invisible” the technology for the end user, the better.

Single sign-on (SSO) securely connects employees to their work and offers a solid foundation for you to build an effective, long-term IAM strategy.

What is Single Sign-On?

With SSO, employees only have to authenticate once into their identity provider and are then automatically logged into all the work apps and resources they have been assigned by IT. Using secure protocols like SAML 2.0, SSO verifies an employee’s identity and then authenticates them invisibly in the background, so they don’t have to remember or type usernames and passwords. From an IT perspective, you can enforce SSO across the entire organization to ensure every login is secure and employees only have the access required for their role.

The Value of Single Sign-On

SSO offers better security for businesses, and more convenience for employees.

Because a SSO solution is centrally deployed and managed, IT maintains complete control over security. You can determine which employees have access to which applications, when they’re logging in, and where they’re logging in from.

IT can provision application access to specific employees or based on role and groups, with flexible policies to ensure access is secure. An employee starting a new job or switching to a new role can have access granted to the applications they need immediately. Access can also be revoked quickly should an employee leave or change roles. What’s unique about SSO is that it can be enforced across the entire organization, which helps reduce the risk of unsecured logins, and helps your help desk by eliminating the need for costly and time-consuming password resets.

For employees, SSO offers a passwordless login experience and reduces the number of passwords they need to manage, requiring only one set of credentials to unlock access to their work apps and services. Employees can access all of their SSO apps with one-click from a centralized portal, eliminating password interruptions, which in turn boosts productivity. Employees can feel confident that they’re following the company’s security guidelines, no matter where they happen to be working from.

Why IAM Strategies Should Start with Single Sign-On

With central management, the ability to enforce policies across the business, and a better login experience for employees, SSO offers a solid foundation for IAM. Secure access is core to security, and once you have SSO in place, it becomes easy to pair with other complementary IAM technologies to support all use cases and further strengthen security.

For example, password management pairs well with SSO by capturing and storing all credentials for services not supported by the SAML protocol, and also offers a way for employees to secure personal credentials to eliminate shadow IT. Multifactor authentication (MFA) can also build upon the security benefits offered by SSO. While SSO can reduce the number of insecure passwords in use across the organization, MFA can be enabled to confirm a user’s identity through an additional authentication factor in the login experience to minimize the risk of a breach.

Because complementary services like password management and MFA can build upon SSO, it makes sense for many businesses to start with SSO as the foundation for IAM. Having SSO in place tackles the employee access problem head-on and helps meet the security and convenience needs for both IT and employees. Once in place, additional technologies can easily be deployed alongside SSO to ensure all access points are secured, and that additional layers of protection are in place.


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