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The Truth about Federated Identity in Information Technology

The Truth about Federated Identity in Information Technology

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you need to manage the same person’s identity in different apps? Or do you find it hard to use different login credentials to access various applications in the systems you monitor? The work can be very daunting, especially if you don’t know how to go about it. To make your life a little bit easier, this is where you need to use a federated identity in information technology. What is federated identity and why does it matter?

What if federated identity in information technology?

As Wikipedia puts it, “A federated identity in information technology is the means of linking a person’s electronic identity and attributes, stored across multiple distinct identity management systems.” In simple words, it is a model that allows the same person uses the same identification data to obtain access to different network applications regardless of underlying technology. The federated identity allows individuals the use the same identification information and login credential across several security domains.

How does the federated identify work?

Also known as the federated identity management (FIM), under this scheme, all credentials are stored with the provider, usually the user’s organization. After the user’s credential are stored, the user won’t need to provide extra credentials when logging in into other domains. The services provider trusts that the federated identity provider will validate the user’s credentials before allowing them, to log in. Consequently, the user only needs to provide their credentials to identity providers directly. Which is his or her home domain?

Here is a step to step guide on how it works

  • The first user need to log in to a home network through the security domain
  • After everything is authenticated to the domain, the user will initiate an attempt to log in to any remote application with identity federated management.
  • Instead of authenticating with the remote application, it will request the authentication of the user from their authentication server.
  • The home authentication server will then authorize the user and he or she will be permitted to use the app.

You only need to authenticate once using the home domain. Other security domains will cooperate and grant access to a user without requesting additional login credential or login process.

Benefits of federated identity management:

Single sign-on and log in

With the rise of technologies, devices, applications, and data, sometimes users have to create more than one account and log in using numerous login credentials to access the applications, devices and accounts. You might end up forgetting the usernames and passwords you use, which means after a few failed attempts at logging on your application accounts get closed or suspended for some time. Now you can’t get the information you need or do anything using those accounts at that time.

Federated identity allows a single sign-on or logs in using your already existing active credentials. This model facilitates for easy access for as many application logins under the organization.

Increased organizational productivity

Dealing with multiple application login processes hurts your organization productivity. Your organizations will experience a decrease in productivity because of the amount of time people use to log in and out of applications. Federated identity simplifies the whole login process, which in turn increases the organizational productivity.

Reduced security risks

With federated identity, you will keep all your authentication process in one place, reducing security issues. You don’t need to synchronize password or username in your computer or services like Azure Active Directory. All your login credentials are stored on-premises, or on your computer behind your operating system firewall.  Having multiple login credentials only exposes you to various risks, including hackers. Using these helps keep your credentials safe.

Federated identity vs. single sign-on (SSO)

Though there are some similarities between federated identity and SSO, but these two have their differences. The SSO model allows users to access multiple systems in a single organization using a single set of credentials. On the other hand, federated identity allows users to access different systems across a variety of organizations. The federated identity enables SSO for users, but the organizations using SSO don’t use federated identity.

People and organizations from all over the world are embracing federated identity. The model is relatively a new concept which extends the identity management, but focuses on defining the identity for each user. This model makes your life a little bit easier by allowing you to access different organizations using the same credentials. The single sign-on or log in process helps in streamlining access to resources, enhancing collaboration and making it easier for administrators to stay on top of security and identity authentication.


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