What Is Identity Federation and How Does It Affect Businesses?

admin Cloud Security Expert - CloudCodes Software
  • July 26th, 2019

Identity Federation

What is identity federation and why does your company need it? What does it offer in terms of data protection and user experience?

These questions could look daunting, particularly because different statements regarding identity federation gets clouded with several tech jargons. How can an unprofessional person sift through complete technical codes and address what identity federation could offer to their firm? Today’s CloudCodes post is going to answer out all your queries regarding identity federation and sensible reasons to use it in business these days.

Identity Federation – Its Introduction

Let’s start with the technical concept of this topic! It imposes popular identity security policies and protocols. It manages and coordinates user identities between different identity vendors, portals, and applications across their architecture. Usually, a federation could establish a trust connection through digital signatures and data encryption algorithms. It does this through several protocols like OAuth2, WS-Federation, SAML 1, or SAML 2. We know that things might not be clear to you completely. So, let’s break down the overall concept!

Federation establishes a connection between identity management systems altogether, and that is why it is termed as ‘federation’. In a federated system, a central home node or identity vendor saves the identities of users. Therefore, when an end-user demand for its own authentication, the application, and database processes the request of accessing data through the identity vendor. Since the trust factor is already there hence, they know whether the data access’s request fulfills their authentication demands or not. Well, in a federated identity security program, the person never directly renders credentials to any individual except the identity vendor. You can assume identity vendor as the middle part of SaaS apps – everything connects to it.

Difference Between Identity Federation and Single Sign-on

There is lots of confusion between the technical concept of single sign-on technology and identity federation. It’s important to clear out this confusion to remove the jargon that people have regarding federation.

The difference between single sign-on technology and an identity federation solution is just like a square and a rectangle. The federation procedure automatically offers your company with a single sign-on procedure. But, the vice-versa case is not applicable! In order to clarify the thing, single sign-on belongs to the list of top upcoming generation identity management capabilities. It can state either:

  • Asking end users to sign in several times for different databases but, enabling them to use the similar set of credentials over the session course.
  • Permitting individuals to use a single login for accessing several applications or databases for their industrial procedures.

Yes, you can consider federation as a kind of single sign-on. But, remember that identity federation enables for a much wider reach because it could span several companies and security fields.

Combination of Identity Federation With MFA

Organizations in smart cities can use identity federation solutions with multi-factor authentication protocols. When your employee signs into a session with your identity vendor, it is completely your choice to ask for n numbers of authentication aspects. Regardless of whether you use federated identity security or not, you should prefer the use of MFA feature. The more factors are there in between the access request and data sought, the more protected it is.

Note – Multifactor authentication procedure has the capability of deterring as many threats as it directly restricts. Attackers are notorious for harming the low-hanging fruit. Usually, they attempt to target companies that don’t have any identity management solutions or are only with single-factor authentication security. Here, MFA puts up many hurdles for most attackers to circumvent.

Role of Identity Federation in Enterprises

Convenience and security – both these things can be felt by companies’ owners when they begin use of identity federation technology. It could help their IT security team in managing their SaaS tenants, automatically. Also, it helps in handling onboarding and offboarding and can balance security as well as user experience on a single consolidated platform. It allows end users to meet their company processes without constantly signing into different applications and databases.