An Identity Provider (IdP) is a system that creates, maintains, and manages identity information for principals while providing authentication services to relying applications within a federation or distributed network.
Principals can be end-users, services, or systems.
Identity providers offer user authentication as a service. In the context of web services, this means when you try to log into a service or application, instead of the application managing your username and password,
It will defer to an external service – the identity provider. This process is typically seamless for the user who simply sees a “Log in with [IdP name]” button.
How Identity Providers accelerate identity governance?
Identity governance is about ensuring that each identity in an organization has the appropriate level of access that is necessary to perform its functions.
This involves setting up policies that control who can access what resources, monitoring how they’re using those resources, and auditing that usage to ensure compliance with the company’s policies and various regulations.
Identity Providers play an important role in identity governance in several ways:
- Centralized Authentication: IdPs enable centralized authentication where user identities are managed in a single place.
This makes it easier to enforce policies uniformly across multiple applications and services.
- Single Sign-On (SSO): Many IdPs offer Single Sign-On capabilities, where a user logs in once and gains access to multiple systems without being prompted to log in again.
This not only improves user experience but also helps in tracking and controlling user access across various systems.
- Access Management: IdPs often integrate with Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) solutions to manage access rights. For instance, if a user’s role in the organization changes,
their access rights can be updated in one place (the IdP), and those changes will propagate to all connected systems.
- Audit and Compliance: As IdPs are the central point for user authentication, they can provide detailed logs about who accessed what resources and when.
This information is crucial for audit purposes and proving compliance with various regulations.
Overall, Identity Providers simplify the process of managing digital identities, improve security by centralizing authentication, and help organizations maintain compliance with internal policies and external regulations.
Examples of Identity Providers
Several types of Identity Providers cater to different needs:
Social Identity Providers
- Facebook Connect: Facebook’s IdP service allows users to sign into third-party websites, applications, and mobile apps with their Facebook credentials. It’s widely used due to its convenience and the vast user base of Facebook. When a user logs in via Facebook, the website can access basic profile information, fostering easier account creation and personalized experiences.
- Google Identity Services: Google offers an IdP service that lets users sign in with their Google accounts. This service is particularly popular among Android users and Google’s ecosystem, including Gmail, YouTube, and Google Drive. It supports two-factor authentication and is known for its robust security measures.
- Twitter Authentication: Twitter also provides an IdP service allowing users to log in to other websites using their Twitter accounts. This is particularly beneficial for applications focusing on social interactions and public content sharing.
Enterprise Identity Providers
- Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS): ADFS is a Single Sign-On solution that allows users within an organization to access external systems and applications using the same credentials they use within their Windows domain. It’s widely used in corporate environments and integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products.
- Okta: Okta is a cloud-based IdP that offers a wide range of identity management services. It’s known for its flexibility, ease of integration with a vast array of applications, and strong security features. Okta is particularly popular among businesses looking for a scalable and reliable SSO solution.
- OneLogin: Similar to Okta, OneLogin provides a cloud-based solution for identity and access management. It offers Single Sign-On, multi-factor authentication, and user provisioning. OneLogin stands out for its ease of use and quick integration with various cloud and on-premise applications.