SAML vs. OIDC: What’s the Difference Between the Two?
Authorization & authentication protocols ensure user data and resources stay safe. Protocols are a set of rules that determine a body before granting it access. Authentication is concerned with identity, whereas authorization is linked with permissions.
SAML and OIDC are popular identity/authentication protocols allowing identity providers to apply user validation and access control. Today, we’ll learn about the two protocols and their differences.
Primarily used by enterprises and governments, Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an open standard protocol that enables the secure exchange of:
Managed by OASIS, SAML utilizes XML for data identity format and HTTP/SOAP for data transport. SAML exclusively uses XML syntax. SAML 2.0, the current version, has been used since 2005, employing XML for formatting identity information.
Moreover, SAML offers a framework to facilitate Single Sign-On (SSO) and other federated identity systems. With SAML, users access multiple apps, services, or websites through a single login process.
Identity and authentication data are shared across systems using the SAML protocol, which handles the following three things of identification data:
In the SAML framework, an identity provider communicates with a service provider to transfer user login credentials. SAML attributes determine whether the user passes authentication. Then, XML-based SAML Assertions containing identity data, such as email address, name, and phone number, are passed on.
As an authentication and authorization standard, SAML enables users to prove their identity and gain authorized access. It operates through XML-based exchanges between asserting parties (SAML authorities) and relying parties (RPs). These exchanges involve security assertions and standardized markup statements dictating access control decisions.
OIDC is particularly suited for web and mobile applications due to its easy adoption and integration. The protocol leverages JSON-based data structures, using JSON Web Tokens (JWTs) for identity data representation. Moreover, HTTPS flows are, by default, used for transportation.
By delegating authentication to trusted identity providers like Google, Microsoft, Apple, etc. OIDC defines the communication between identity providers and relying parties, facilitating secure authentication processes.
With OIDC, scopes, known as claims (user attributes), are issued in digitally signed JWTs, allowing for secure transfer and verification. This aligns with the OAuth 2.0 framework, providing an industry-standard solution for identity management, single sign-on (SSO), and secure communication between applications and services.
OIDC represents a newer generation of OpenID technology, building upon the OAuth protocol and expanding its capabilities to encompass authentication services.
Comparison of SAML & OIDC
In SAML, attributes, authorization, and authentication statements are formatted in XML. OIDC is based on JSON Web Token or JWT, which is comparatively lightweight to heavy-XML assertions.
SAML uses the following bindings to transfer data:
- HTTP Redirect
- SAML SOAP
- Reverse SOAP
- HTTP Artifact
- SAML URI
OIDC, by default, uses HTTPs to transport data.
SAML is an old standard that’s trusted by a lot of enterprises and businesses worldwide. Indeed, it’s feature-rich but only limited to web applications. On the other hand, OIDC is made for modern applications like SPAs, mobile apps, etc.
There’s no potential for SAML to be utilized for modern-day applications because it uses XML. Whereas OIDC uses lightweight JSON security tokens, which are versatile, faster, and easier to process and transfer than XML docs.
As SAML is heavy due to the nature of XML documents, API integration gets impossible. However, OIDC uses RESTful API communication for easily fetching, processing, and transporting APIs.
SAML has more features, trust amongst corporations, and credibility. On the split side, modern apps support OIDC, it’s lightweight & faster, and performance-friendly.
SAML can be complex to install and maintain as it works on static authentication. This means identification has to be implemented between an identity provider and relying party before the transfer. Only enterprise-size businesses can afford and handle it.
OIDC is simple and easy to set up. Using the freely available libraries, developers can get it up & running in no time. Also, it helps to broaden the use cases.
OpenID Connect is a layer on top of OAuth 2.0 with built-in user consent – asking the user’s permission to provide access. In SAML, developers must explicitly craft consent flow as it’s not an integral part of the protocol.
All-in-all, OIDC takes the edge when it comes to implementation, as many open-source libraries have been built around it for faster setup.
OIDC is still maturing and gaining traction. For instance, the dynamic specification of proxy identity providers is still under development. However, SAML has a proven history of secure data exchange.
To provide top-notch authentication, SAML is trusted by sensitive industries like banking, finance, health, and government. Although the protocol is complex, the right developers can develop robust practices to guarantee the utmost safety.
Using Vault Vision to Implement SAML and OIDC
At Vault Vision, we provide easy, fast, and secure user logins for websites/apps using SAML and OIDC.
We cover three types of OpenID Connect, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, so your users can seamlessly sign in. Our Enterprise plan offers SAML integration which lets large-scale businesses easily use XML-based authentication.
You can save time by using our no-code apps, preconfigured settings, and guided account setup wizard. Also, we are officially certified by OIDC and SAML.
SAML is a leading industry-standard authentication protocol that has been around for years. In contrast, OIDC is growing and becoming the go-to method used by modern-day services. You can use Vault Vision to integrate SAML and OIDC Google, Microsoft, and Apple into your sites and apps. Try out our Launch and Growth plans for free by registering yourself today!