MFA vs SSO for Small Business IT Security
by TUCU Managed IT Services in Toronto
As a small business owner, you may wonder how you can make it easier for your team to log in to the many apps they all use, and more importantly, how to easily change the login credentials for all those apps when staff changeovers happen. This is a real pain point for growing teams like yours and Single Sign On is the solution we recommend.
Not be confused with 2FA or MFA (where you use 2 credentials to log in to a single account), SSO allows a single account to be used to log in to multiple apps. Dive in as we cover the difference between Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and Single Sign-On (SSO).
While both are authentication mechanisms, they serve different purposes and have unique features that make them essential for securing access to your online resources.
What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?
You (most likely) already use this. It’s likely in the form of a PIN generator on your phone.
By definition, Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security mechanism that requires users to provide two or more different authentication factors to access an account or resource.
These authentication factors can include a password, a fingerprint scan, a smart card, or a one-time code sent to a user's phone or email.
MFA provides an additional layer of security to the login process, making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access an account, even if they have stolen a user's password. In addition, MFA can help prevent phishing attacks, where attackers trick users into giving away their login credentials.
What is Single Sign-On (SSO)?
This one is not as well adopted yet, but once you know about it, it will likely be a no brainer to add to your security posture.
By definition, Single Sign-On (SSO) is an authentication mechanism that allows users to access multiple applications or resources with a single set of login credentials. For example, your IT company can enable SSO for your team and you can use your Microsoft 365 login for all or many of your cloud apps moving forward. Here’s a list of apps that have SSO enabled and can work with your Microsoft 365 login credentials.
With SSO, users only need to log in once, and they are then automatically authenticated across all the applications and resources they need to access.
SSO can help increase productivity by eliminating the need for users to remember multiple usernames and passwords for each application they use.
Additionally, SSO can help simplify account management, as it allows for centralized management of user accounts and access rights.
This means that if a staff member leaves, you revoke their email credentials and all the Single Sign On apps are simultaneously taken care of. That makes for more secure offboarding and reduces your risk of data leaks or theft post employee exit.
Since staff only need to maintain a single secure password to log in to all apps, and Single Sign On looks at other identity verification points in Azure AD as well, SSO also helps improve security across your organization. It is especially helpful in reducing the risks associated with weak passwords.
We are advocates of multiple layers of security at every possible failure point. We help our clients achieve Zero Trust Security for their own peace of mind – or to pass IT compliance requirements. And Singe Sign On gets a big green checkmark on those fronts.
As MFA Requirements Increase, SSO Helps Even More
Do you think your staff would rather have multiple MFA apps on their devices for each piece of software they need for work, or a single MFA app for primary work email paired with SSO?
Given the choice, our staff want the single app.
As software developers are adopting MFA enforcement for security, you and your team will need more MFA apps - or Single Sign On.
And while there are little workarounds like Authy, when it comes to security across your entire organization, you want tools for Identity Management and SSO. From a security standpoint, everything is safer with Identity management in place, and SSO makes things easier for everyone.
Differences between MFA and SSO
The primary difference between MFA and SSO is that MFA provides an additional layer of security to the login process, while SSO simplifies the login process (but it also helps improve security in the ways mentioned above).
Both MFA and SSO are critical security tools that have their unique benefits. MFA provides an additional layer of security to the login process, making it more difficult for unauthorized users to access an account. SSO simplifies the login process, making it more user-friendly and increasing productivity, and to revoke access across an identity.
Ultimately, it’s not a choice between the two. They are apples and oranges. You want both.
For Managed IT security services in Toronto Ontario, please reach out to us here at TUCU. We make IT easy for you.