What is OpenID Connect (OIDC) and How does it Work?

3 minutes read
what is oidc

OpenID Connect – or simply OIDC – is a robust, streamlined, and modern identity layer designed to verify users’ identities without the necessity of retaining their credentials. OIDC operates on top of the secure OAuth 2.0 protocol, bestowing developers the liberty to focus their efforts on crafting the core value of their applications rather than tussling with identity management. In this blog, we explore what OpenID Connect is, how it works, why it has become an integral part of today’s interconnected digital environment, and particularly how it facilitates Single Sign-On (SSO) for users.

Understanding OpenID Connect (OIDC)

First introduced by the OpenID Foundation in 2014, OIDC was developed as a simpler, more efficient alternative to the former OpenID 2.0. By adding a thin layer atop the established OAuth 2.0 protocol, OIDC paves the way for user identity verification reliant on an Authorization Host Server’s authentication – an approach based on OAuth 2.0.

OIDC and Single Sign-On (SSO)

OIDC serves as a Single Sign-On (SSO) protocol. SSO is a property that allows users to log in to multiple different systems or applications using a single set of credentials, usually managed by an Identity Provider (IdP). The IdP handles the user authentication, and each system or application (known as a Relying Party) relies on the IdP’s authentication of the user. This practice saves the user from repeating authentication for each system or application, providing a greatly streamlined user experience and reducing the burden of managing multiple sets of credentials for users.

Key Components of OIDC

OIDC incorporates three distinctive entities:

  1. User-Agent: Typically, it is the end-user’s web browser.
  2. Relying Party (RP)/Client: This is the application requesting user authentication.
  3. OpenID Provider (OP): This service is responsible for authenticating the end-user’s identity.

The OIDC Authentication Journey

Let’s demystify the process of OIDC authentication flow:

  1. Beginning with the end-user, a request is initiated via the user-agent to the Relying Party or Client.
  2. The client then redirects this request to the OpenID Provider.
  3. The OP authenticates the end-user’s identity, possibly asking the end-user to approve the request.
  4. Once successfully authenticated, the OP redirects the user-agent back to the client, including an authorization code in the redirection URI.
  5. The client exchanges this valuable authorization code at the OP’s token endpoint for ID and access tokens.
  6. These tokens are subsequently returned by the OP to the client.
  7. Finally, the client validates the ID token and retrieves the end-user’s subject identifier.

Appeal of OpenID Connect

Security: OIDC has built-in security safeguards. It employs JSON web tokens (JWT), cryptographically signed to ensure verification and deter both tampering and spoofing.

Decentralization: OIDC operates in a decentralized environment, enabling each user to select their preferred Open Identity Provider (OP).

Interoperability: OIDC offers standout interoperability, as it comfortably interacts with other standards, providing consistent integration for developers.

Conclusion

Navigating identity management can often be complex. However, embracing OpenID Connect can substantially streamline this process, enhancing your application’s security. This standard has gained remarkable traction over the years, making a comprehensive understanding crucial for anyone keen on modern application security and identity management. By integrating OIDC into your applications, particularly for Single Sign-On, you are paving the way towards a safer and highly efficient user experience.

For teams looking to simplify and fast-track implementation of OIDC SSO, Datawiza offers a distinct solution. Datawiza provides a no-code platform for implementing OIDC Single Sign-On (SSO) authentication for applications. This makes the process of supporting OIDC for SSO much more accessible, saving time and resources while further enhancing security.