Authorization Basics

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What Are the Parties Involved in SAML

Understand the roles of various participants in the SAML SSO flow.

SAML Parties

Within the framework of the Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML), a system of paramount importance for secure access management, there exist three fundamental roles, each playing a unique and essential part in the Single Sign-On (SSO) flow. These roles are the Identity Provider (IDP), the Service Provider (SP), and the principal entity, which is often representative of the end-user.

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SAML Participants Explained

  1. Identity Provider (IDP): The Identity Provider is a crucial component in the SAML framework. It acts as the trusted entity responsible for authenticating users. When a user attempts to access a service or application, the IDP verifies their identity through various authentication methods. Once authenticated, the IDP issues a SAML assertion, which is a digitally signed statement confirming the user’s identity and attributes. This assertion is sent to the Service Provider (SP) to grant or deny access.

  2. Service Provider (SP): The Service Provider hosts the online service or application that users want to access. It relies on the assertions provided by the IDP to make access decisions. When the SP receives a SAML assertion, it validates the digital signature, extracts user information, and uses this data to determine whether to grant or deny access to the requested resource. The SP plays a pivotal role in ensuring the security and integrity of the service.

  3. Principal (User): The principal, often the end-user, initiates the authentication process. They access a service or application provided by the SP. Instead of providing their credentials directly to the SP, the principal is redirected to the IDP for authentication. Once authenticated by the IDP, the user receives a SAML assertion, which allows them to access the SP without revealing sensitive login credentials. The principal benefits from single sign-on (SSO) convenience and enhanced security through SAML.

These three participants collaborate seamlessly in the SAML architecture to enable secure and efficient SSO processes for online services and applications.

Updated: Sep 15, 2023