As financial services firms adopt new application platforms and continue to expand their existing network infrastructure, they are faced with the challenge of being able to balance business agility and utility with security. As a result, identity and access management (IAM) systems must exist within the organisation that provide access control mechanisms to enable users to obtained secured and seamless access to multiple resources.
As the number of services that require authentication increases, users are required to remember more sets of passwords and usernames. This is coupled with the rising frequency of password mismanagement on the user’s part, which raises concerns over security, especially when users begin to repeat the same password across different services and applications. Access management strategies have therefore been developed to mitigate these security concerns of repeated login requests and password management scenarios. One such strategy that has been a successful implementation within IAM is single sign on (SSO).
SSO brings with it several benefits. For the end users, they no longer have the burden of memorising multiple sets of login credentials. Not only does this lessen the responsibility of password management, it also takes away the possibility of the same password and username combination being repeated for different applications and services. SSO also improves interface usability by cutting down on the amount of requests for screen prompts. In addition, the administrative workload for IT teams and network managers is reduced when less users contact them to fix forgotten passwords and other password related issues. This in turns saves money for the organisation as help desk costs will be cut down. Financial services organisations can subsequently use the money saved to invest in other security initiatives and projects that will be developed on wider scales. Productivity at the office environment can also be thus enhanced when less time and effort is spent on dealing with password and access management issues. Furthermore, with SSO, improved user management can be offered through a single platform for processes such as creating accounts or controlling and removing user account privileges.
There are two types of SSO: web single sign (WSSO) and enterprise single sign on (ESSO). Both are similar in that they provide a single point of login for accessing resources as well as a centralised platform for user authentication management. Both approaches of SSO utilises a primary authorisation system that confers access to secondary resources and applications. However, both types of SSO are different in their technological structure.
Both WSSO and ESSO provide major improvements in system usability and network management. While WSSO comes with the benefits of reduced costs and rapid deployment, ESSO systems provide resource integration and greater expandability. Additional issues to consider before instituting an SSO system include regulatory compliance to industrial standards, existing login and IT security policies, and protocol use. It is important to evaluate the compatibility between existing security infrastructure before deciding to adopt a SSO solution. Regardless, successful implementation of SSO can provide an extra defensive layer of security to a financial service organization’s network infrastructure.