Identity Provider SSO vs. Service Provider SSO: An Analysis
Single Sign-On (SSO) is a crucial authentication method in the world of cybersecurity and identity management. It streamlines user access to various applications and services by allowing them to log in just once, after which they can access multiple resources without the need to enter their credentials repeatedly. Two primary SSO models are Identity Provider SSO (IdP SSO) and Service Provider SSO (SP SSO). Clients of Apis Productions have enjoyed our immensely popular SSO plugin to access tools across the life insurance landscape. We are currently working on a way to make this process even better by leveraging the convenience of Identity Provider SSO with the security of Service Provider SSO. But first, let’s explain the differences between the two.
What is Identity Provider SSO (IdP SSO)?
IdP SSO is an authentication model in which a centralized identity provider manages user authentication and identity verification. Users log in to a single platform, often using a username and password or other multifactor authentication methods, and then gain access to various services and applications without the need to re-enter their credentials. Currently, this is what clients of Apis have been using to log into all of their services.
For example, if our client is a Brokerage General Agency, their agents log in to the BGA website and this automatically logs them into FireLight, iPipeline, and other 3rd party vendor tools. There are inherent benefits and drawbacks to this method as you’ll see below.
Benefits of IdP SSO:
Centralized Authentication: One of the primary benefits of IdP SSO is the centralization of authentication processes. This ensures consistency and security in verifying user identities. Users only need to authenticate once, simplifying the overall user experience.
Enhanced Security: IdP SSO enables the implementation of strong security measures at the authentication level. Multi-factor authentication (MFA), biometrics, and other robust identity verification methods can be easily integrated, strengthening the security of the entire system.
Efficient User Management: Organizations can efficiently manage user accounts, permissions, and access rights from a single location (the BGA website) which simplifies user onboarding and offboarding processes and helps maintain data integrity and security.
User Convenience: IdP SSO significantly enhances the user experience. Users do not need to remember multiple usernames and passwords, reducing the risk of password fatigue and the need to reset forgotten passwords.
Drawbacks of IdP SSO:
Single Point of Failure: While centralization offers benefits, it also introduces a single point of failure. If the identity provider experiences downtime or a security breach, it can disrupt access to all connected services, making it a critical target for attackers.
Dependency on External Services: IdP SSO relies on external identity providers, and if these services experience disruptions or outages, it can affect the availability of all connected services.
Let’s compare this to Service Provider SSO
Service Provider SSO, in contrast, is an authentication model where individual services and applications handle their own authentication processes. Users must log in separately to each service but can often use the same credentials across multiple platforms.
Benefits of SP SSO:
Decentralized Control: SP SSO gives individual service providers autonomy over their authentication methods and user data. This can be advantageous for organizations with diverse needs and preferences.
Scalability: Organizations can easily add new services and applications to their environment without the need to integrate them with a central identity provider. This simplifies the scalability process. As new tools in the insurtech space come online, Apis would be able to more easily implement these on the fly for our clients.
Redundancy: SP SSO mitigates the risk of a single point of failure because service providers operate independently. If one service experiences an issue, it does not necessarily affect access to other services.
Drawbacks of SP SSO:
User Friction: SP SSO can be less convenient for users since they have to log in separately to each service. This can lead to password fatigue and potentially compromise security if users resort to using weak or reused passwords. However, Apis can solve this problem so that the user enjoys the frictionless nature of IdP SSO with the benefits of SP SSO.
Inconsistent Security: Each service provider is responsible for its own security measures. This can lead to inconsistencies in security policies and may result in some services having weaker security measures than others. This, however, is not an issue in our insure-tech environment.
A New Direction for SSO in the Life Insurance Space
Apis is working behind the scenes to make changes to how we utilize and implement SSO for our clients. There are times when logging into the website of a BGA, FMO, or IMO limits the ability of those clients to show their capabilities to non-registered visitors. However, at present, logging in is a requirement in order for registered users to access important tools. By combining the convenience of a single log-on state with the flexibility of only logging into tools as they are needed and used. Apis wants to achieve a more scalable, secure, and user-friendly process for SSO. We’ll discuss this exciting enhancement in the near future as we begin to roll out the new system. Until then, stay secure and stay successful!