10 years of safe single sign-on access

Single sign-on access has made logging in to multiple academic resource sites much easier and more secure. Mark Williams toasts 10 years of safer researching.

Imagine you’re busy creating a world class research paper. Now imagine you’re doing it while juggling multiple passwords and usernames to access all of the online resources you need – as well as the many buildings you need to enter.

This was the problem in education before the UK’s cyber security strategy reiterated the importance of password safety. The UK Access Management Federation solved the issue a decade ago, by giving access to trusted academic resources via one single sign-on.

Keeping personal data secure

The federation, which now marks its tenth anniversary, emerged from a pilot project between the University of Edinburgh and the Janet Network. Its development was a robust and highly practical response to growing fears over cyber security; it does away with the need for multiple passwords and usernames without compromising on security.

In doing so, it makes it easier for academic users to take advantage of multiple trusted online resources and physical locations such as libraries via a single sign-on. Using their institutional sign-on individuals can save themselves time and ensure that their personal data remains securely locked away with their university or college.

The UK Access Management Federation is the largest service of its kind. It serves more than a thousand member organisations in nearly 40 countries and is interoperable with eduGAIN, which connects identity federations around the world.

So this tenth anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the federation’s success so far.

Self-service portal

It’s also a good time to announce that we’re about to pilot a self-service portal for all service providers, higher education and further education institutions and schools which will allow system administrators to make changes themselves speedily, without needing to contact the helpdesk.

We’re not doing away with the helpdesk – it will still be available for customers who want the expert assistance that they have been used to getting from the team.

The current extension and upgrades to the service will let us support the growing number of students and researchers who routinely need to access content online and to help them navigate fast-changing learning environments.

We’ll be able to provide more support for the sharing of content and ideas and we’ll facilitate collaboration at a global level.

Large cost savings

As open access becomes the new normal and universities get to grips with the requirements of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) it’s increasingly important that UK institutions have a well-tried and trusted service that supports their students and academics.

It has also enabled universities to make large cost savings by doing away with the administrative burden of multiple sign-ons.

Here’s to another successful ten years for the UK Access Management Federation!

Mark Williams
Federation service manager at Jisc