A single sign-on system enables users to access multiple applications without creating additional accounts or repeatedly entering passwords.
Single sign-on systems follow the OpenID Connect (OIDC) or Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) protocols. For any company concerned about securing its users' data, getting a grip on SSO can be a daunting task.
But determining whether SAML or OIDC is right for your enterprise requires weighing a few characteristics against your business goals.
OpenID Connect or OIDC is an authentication protocol that verifies end-user identity when the user is trying to connect with a secure server like HTTPS.
Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an authentication protocol that is used between an identity provider and a service provider. It works by transferring user login credentials to the service provider if it passes SAML attributes.
Both OIDC and SAML authentication are identity protocols and can be the basic building blocks of any identity provider. Businesses generally use either of the protocols to maintain their user accounts and data.
Before we look at the differences between these protocols, let us understand the basic OIDC and SAML workflow which can be broken down as follows:
- The end-user visits the website and tries to log in using an existing account.
- They decide which app they want to use to log in (Google, Facebook, Yahoo, etc.).
- This selection is then passed onto the browser or app using the IdP.
- The app verifies the user's identity before granting access to the information the end-user is looking for.
While the flow is the same, there are significant differences between OIDC and SAML.
SAML authentication protocols were first introduced in 2005. SAML authentication transfers information like the user's first name, last name, etc., to verify that the end-user is genuine. This transmission method uses XML format and relies on secure HTTPS servers.
This transmitted user data in SAML authentication is called "SAML assertion". Without the right assertion, the user is unable to gain access to the information or the account.
OIDC is used by various popular private enterprises using Nomura Research institute, PayPal, Ping Identity, Microsoft, Amazon, etc. SAML is generally used for business and government applications like citizens Ids. The major difference in both these protocols is due to the security difference in OIDC and SAML authentication.
OIDC is generally preferred in commercial applications where simple identity verification is required over a complex one.
Various organizations trust SAML authentication because it provides a wide range of features. It was developed almost 17 years ago, and therefore it has well-developed security features.
OIDC, on the other hand, is newer and still evolving. While OIDC has secure protocols, these are yet to be adapted for the needs of specific sectors like banking. This lack of features is one of the reasons why SAML is lagging in terms of applications.
OIDC is easy to integrate and therefore is used by mobile applications and single-page apps. On the other hand, SAML authentication is heavyweight and cannot be integrated into these without compromising on other features. OIDC was developed specifically because SAML was too heavyweight for such applications.
Simply put, OIDC is another layer of the OAuth framework. This increases the security and permits the user first to give consent before the user can access a service. This is an in-built service and a standard protocol.
However, in SAML, the authentication protocols need to be coded individually by the developer. To provide authentication, SAML relies on IdP and relies on the party to know each other. If they don't, no data transfer can take place.
While both authentication protocols are powerful and have their benefits, businesses need to be careful while choosing one. Here's how you can choose which protocol to use.
Given below are the factors that you should keep in mind when choosing an authentication protocol:
As already discussed in the previous section, the applications of both OIDC and SAML are completely different. SAML authentication should be used if your business deals with sensitive data and requires the highest possible security.
On the other hand, OIDC can be used if you require only minimum verification or temporary logins rather than long-lasting user accounts.
OIDC works well with mobile applications and should therefore be used if you want to create an application centred around user-friendliness. Since this protocol is lightweight, it can be implemented on almost all devices to provide a rich user experience.
LoginRadius provides a seamless cloud-based Identity management solution. The platform simplifies the process of registering, verifying and authenticating new users. It is a completely customizable service that can be scaled up according to your growing business requirements.
It’s easy to get started with both SAML 1.1 and SAML 2.0 with LoginRadius. The CIAM provider functions both as an identity provider (IDP) or a service provider (SP). Its Admin Console gives you complete control over your SAML setups, thereby allowing you to adjust the assertions, keys, and endpoints to meet the requirements of any SAML provider.
LoginRadius also supports federated SSO protocols, like Multipass, OpenID Connect and Delegation.
Whether you opt for a SAML or an OIDC verification method, the identity provider you choose can define your app's features and user-friendliness. Partnering with the right platform will help you provide the best security possible and ensure you don't fall victim to any cybercrimes.