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Single Sign-On (SSO) allows users, who are authenticated against one application, to gain access to multiple other related applications without having to repeatedly authenticate themselves. It also allows the web applications to gain access to a set of back-end services with the logged-in user's access rights, and the back-end services can authorize the user based on different claims like the user role.

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SAML stands for Security Assertion Markup Language, which is an XML based data format for exchanging authentication and authorization data between an identity provider and a service provider. The single most important requirement that SAML addresses is web browser single sign-on (SSO). Three main roles are defined in SAML Specification.

  • The Principal: This is typically the user who tries to access a protected resource or service of a service provider.
  • The Identity Provider: An Identity Provider (IdP) is responsible for authenticating users and issuing assertions which include authentication/authorization decisions and user attributes.
  • The Service Provider: A Service Provider(SP) consumes the assertions issued by Identity Provider and provides services to the principals.

The main use case scenario covered by SAML is the Principal (the user) requesting access to resource or service from the Service Provider. Then the Service Provider, using SAML, communicates with the Identity Provider to obtain identity assertion. The Service Provider makes the access control decision, depending on this assertion.

SAML 2.0 is the latest version of SAML, which uses security tokens containing assertions to pass information about a user between an identity provider and a service provider.

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