Passwords in Peril

Single Sign-On technology can increase business efficiency

In the financial services space, Renasant Bank, with 68 locations across Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, was able reduce password resets by 82 percent in the year following its SSO implementation. This drop has enabled employees to focus on their jobs and not their passwords.

SSO solutions can also help to reduce IT burden by letting administrators implement a clear, straightforward password policy across all SSO-enabled applications. The policy can be based on an employee’s primary role, function and/or location. With SSO, administrators can also set password complexity constraints (minimum/maximum length, reset intervals, auto resets, etc.), manage authentication challenges and accommodate application-generated password reset requests. This automation significantly reduces the IT burden.

Some SSO solutions enable end-users to monitor and track all desktop, network and application access activity in a centralized log file. This gives businesses the ability to demonstrate who has been authorized to access which system, who actually accessed which system, and who is sharing passwords. Ultimately, this enables user accountability and the ability to easily report for regulatory compliance.

Choosing the Right SSO Solution

While an SSO solution can address these and a variety of other needs, some can be costly, difficult and even time-consuming to deploy. Additionally they may involve lengthy set up by means of scripting to SSO-enable a variety of applications. This may make installation and updates complicated and expensive. So which SSO solution would be right for your organization? There are several criteria that you should take into account when examining SSO technology options.

First, look at your business issues and identify those solutions that address the issues you face. Focus on the solutions that have the potential to create a more efficient and secure organization. Specifically look at a solution that delivers all the functionality that your IT staff and employees need to make a difference for your business.

Second, identify solutions that are easy to implement and can enable SSO without modifying your existing infrastructure — whether directories or applications. Businesses of all types benefit from quicker implementation, lower help-desk costs, increased productivity and compliance — all without interruption of current business activities.

Third, pick a solution that fully supports the management of multiple strong authentication methods. This enables companies to implement levels of security that are appropriate for specific employees, groups of employees, computers/workstations and the overall organization.
Fourth, look for a solution that employees can quickly adopt without extensive training. The benefits of SSO are only realized when employees embrace the technology and kick the password habit entirely. Those solutions that require extensive training or change employee workflow dramatically will inevitably discourage the user from tapping it.

For those businesses that have implemented the right SSO solutions, employees have embraced the new technology and its proven ability to eliminate the password management struggles that they face on a daily basis. They have also embraced the fact that SSO allows them to work more productively. As for the IT team, they are able to eliminate password-related calls to the help desk, ensure greater security and ultimately enable users to access their applications without complicating their lives with greater security measures.

Geoff Hogan is senior vice president, Business Development & Product Management/Marketing at Imprivata Inc. He has 20 years of business development, marketing, sales and general management experience in the storage, data management, and software infrastructure market segments with both large organizations and start-ups.