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Is Single Sign On (SSO) The Same as Saml (Security Assertion Markup Language)?

What is Single Sign On

Single Sign-On (SSO) and Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) are both crucial elements in the world of identity and access management (IAM), but they are not the same thing. They are, however, closely related and often used together to provide secure, streamlined access to multiple applications.

SSO is a user authentication service that allows a user to access various apps with a single set of login credentials (e.g., username and password). The service authenticates the user for all programs to which they have been granted access and removes additional prompts when they switch applications within the same session.

SSO can help reduce the risk of password-related security problems from a cybersecurity standpoint. SSO requires users to remember only one password, minimizing the temptation to reuse or write down passwords. It also makes managing access easier when an employee joins, moves within, or departs a company.

The similarities and differences between SSO and SAML

SAML, on the other hand, is an open standard that allows parties to exchange authentication and authorization data, specifically between an identity provider and a service provider. SAML provides principal (user) authentication, attribute sharing, and authorization as an XML-based markup language for security assertions (statements used by service providers to make access-control decisions).

A common SAML use case is a user requesting access to a service (such as a web application). The service requests confirmation of the user’s identity from an identity provider (which keeps the user’s credentials). The identity provider responds with a SAML assertion that includes the authentication decision as well as user information. Based on this assumption, the service either grants or denies access.

While SSO is a concept and SAML is a standard for implementing that notion, they are frequently used in conjunction. SSO can be implemented using SAML, which allows users to log in once with a single set of credentials and obtain access to numerous apps that accept SAML claims.

The combination of SSO and SAML can provide businesses with safe, efficient access management. It is possible to improve productivity and user experience by reducing the number of times users must authenticate. Simultaneously, by centralizing identity management, it can improve security and simplify the process of controlling access privileges, both of which are critical components of cybersecurity.

Implications for cybersecurity

2023 has been an exciting year that brought many technologies to the forefront. Let us explore a few trends that have important implications for cybersecurity, specifically the use of SAML and SSO in tandem:

  • Rise in Remote Work: The increase in remote work due to the pandemic and the trend towards more flexible work arrangements has expanded the perimeter of corporate networks. This necessitates secure access solutions for remote workers. SSO and SAML, used in conjunction with VPNs and other security measures, will play a key role in providing secure access to corporate resources.
  • Adoption of Cloud Services: As more businesses move to the cloud, the demand for safe, efficient access control grows. SSO and SAML are critical for managing access to cloud-based resources, and their use is expected to increase as more businesses adopt cloud services.
  • API Economy: There is a rising need to securely control access to APIs as organizations become more linked. SAML and SSO are essential elements of API security strategies since they may offer safe, frictionless access to APIs.


Staff Correspondent at CPO Magazine