Federated identity in information technology (IT) refers to the identity management model that links a person’s account details across multiple websites. Federated identity management (FIM) is the reason why you can log in to websites like Canva, Pinterest, and eBay with either your Google, Facebook, or Apple account.
Despite having their identity management systems, these websites are linked through standard policies and protocols. Canva, for instance, is federated with Google, Facebook, and Apple so that the users of the three sites can log in to its platform without having to go through a different login process.
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Did you know that an average person has around 70–80 passwords? This data is based on a 2019 study by NordPass. It is possible that more passwords were added last year, as people downloaded more apps during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Having to memorize close to a hundred passwords could be why most people use ones that are easy to remember (and easy to guess for hackers). People also tend to reuse these weak passwords across multiple accounts, making it all the more unchallenging for cybercriminals.
To address this security issue, organizations implement solutions like the federated identity model to make it easier for users to access applications and websites. By making their access straightforward, users are encouraged to create strong passwords.
What Is the Difference between Single Sign-On and Federated Identity?
While reading what is federated identity in the first section, you might have thought about how similar it is to the single sign-on (SSO) authentication model. Indeed, SSO allows users to use the same login credentials across multiple and independent systems.
With SSO, employees no longer have to remember different passwords for the company’s payroll, human resource (HR), project management, and other work-related applications. They can use their company email address and password across multiple systems. Below is an example of an SSO login page.
SSO is a subset of the broader federated identity management model. While SSO only deals with user authentication, FIM relates to the standard operating procedures, policies, and technologies that govern user identity federation. Without the federated identity standards, SSO would not be possible.
Advantages of Federated Identity
Several organizations implement federated identity due to its benefits. Among its advantages are:
Deploying FIM in organizations can help them save on storage costs, as the data that needs to be stored is lessened. The IT department would also spend less time dealing with account-related issues like password resets.
Improved User Experience
Among the top benefits of employing federated identity standards is that it removes users’ need to go through the login process multiple times. They also don’t have to remember too many passwords, allowing them to focus on coming up with stronger ones. For instance, you can immediately log in to Canva if you are already logged in to either your Google, Apple, or Facebook account.
Authenticating users once and using this data across multiple systems within an organization can lower the risk of hackers compromising their accounts. An intrusion would likely be detected and blocked during the initial authentication process.
Ensured Privacy Compliance
FIM gives users control over the information they share. When you log in to Medium with your Facebook account details, for instance, you can opt not to share your email address. Furthermore, you may also disable notifications from the app, and limit who can see that you’re using it.
Such functionality is quite nifty, as organizations thrive on complying with data privacy regulations.
Federated identity was born out of the need to streamline user identification processes, especially when a single person deals with multiple systems. The model has spawned into several applications, one of the most prevalent of which is SSO.