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SSO - Single Sign On

By: Christine Martz

Meaning of SSO - "Single Sign On", is an authentication process that lets a user to enter a username and password only once when they log on to a server, yet have access many applications. If a user has rights to use many different applications on a server, they only have to log-in once and won't be prompted again for a username and password each and every time they want to switch to another program or application on that same server. For example, a doctor needs to check a patient's medical history from one database and then switches to another database to see her prescription history; SSO keeps the doctor from having to log-in twice.

Single Sign On is also used in e-commerce and for many governmental websites. A user's information, like their credit card number, social security number and other information are stored on one server. A customer logs on to that service entering their username and password and from there can visit many other websites and be able to purchase items or services without having to type in their personal or financial information over and over again at each site they visit. This is not only convenient for the customer but it is much more secure. An example of this type of service is Microsoft's Passport.

Single Sign On has been used since the 1990's. Microsoft launched it's widely used SSO service, Passport, in 1999.

Other Related Definitions:

“For employees there are fewer passwords to remember and consistent log-in credentials. For customers there's a need to only log in once and trust in knowing their data isn't spread across a complex array of systems. For enterprises there's more consistent security, including a centralized audit trail, data and application protection and other features to help ensure regulatory compliance.” [Jeffrey Rozek - Ernst & Young]

“…Internally, it means a more rapid integration of acquisitions, better coupling of ID islands across divisions, reduced cost and better employee productivity. It's great because employees don't have to remember multiple passwords. Externally, the benefits include a richer integration of partners, a faster and cheaper coupling through standards; a simplified customer experience; deeper service offerings and better protection of customer information. We manage your money and we're very sensitive about protecting you.” [Patrick Harding - Fidelity Investment]

“…Web single sign-on makes it easier for users to log into multiple Web applications with one set of credentials and simplifies password management for organizations.” [Sun Microsystems]

“…A key advantage of the technology is its ability to take the complexity and risk out of password management and maintenance. Passwords can be quickly reset with minimal intervention or end-user involvement. Now, we can help organizations enforce stronger password policies, such as alphanumeric passwords, because doctors and other hospital staff no longer need to remember new or complex passwords.”[Omar Hussain - Imprivata

“…As a user interacts with different Websites and Web applications today, he must authenticate himself to each site or application, even if he uses the same name and password on each. The user's authenticated identity does not follow the user as he surfs the Web. In a single sign-on environment, the user authenticates himself only once, and that authentication stays in effect for the length of the online session. ” [Todd E. Sundsted - Java World ]

Related Links:

Why choose single sign-on? - Build and Implement A Single Sign-On Solution.
SSO Concept and Scenarios - Securing Web Services With SSO.
The New Face of Single Sign-On - In Depth Article On SSO
Word of the Day - A Look at SSO
Understanding Single Sign On - Explanation of Various Types of SSO
Can't remember all the user IDs and passwords? - Single sign-on offers a way out, simplifying life for both users and administrators

Technical Resources:

SSO - Introduction to Single Sign-On
Scope of a Single Sign-On Standard - Definition and Objectives of the SSO Standard

Products and Solutions:

Microsoft Passport Network - Simplify your sign in

Blogs, News, Feeds, Discussion Lists:

Portal Security and Login Server - Discussion about Portal SSO, LDAP integration, Login Server and security.
SSO Board - Single Sign-On Technology Discussion.

Books About:

X/Open Single Sign-On Service (XSSO) - Pluggable Authentication - by The Open Group.
Kerberos: The Definitive Guide - JasonĘGarman.

See Also:

Other SSO Related Resources


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