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Authentication with Okta

Authentication is a crucial part of any application development. Whether you are developing an internal IT app for your employees – or building a portal for your partners – or exposing a set of APIs for developers building apps around your resources, Okta Platform can provide the right support for your projects.

Building Apps That Support SSO

For IT or ISVs who want to use Okta as an identity provider, Okta provides several options for secure SSO. SAML has been widely used as the single sign-on protocol by many ISVs and is supported by many identity management solutions. Okta provides comprehensive guidance for developers to implement a proper SAML service provider. For IT building internal apps and would like to support SSO, SAML is also a good option.

OpenID Connect is the emerging technology that provides an alternative implementation of SSO. Okta is a Certified OpenID Connect provider. Building on top of OAuth 2.0 framework, OpenID Connect is a modern implementation to support authentication and SSO. If you are an Okta customer, our OpenID Connect API is a great way to support SSO and is a simpler alternative to SAML.

For ISVs who want to provide SSO for their customers, both SAML and OpenID Connect are worth considering. Both protocols cover a wide variety of identity providers that you may encounter.

Building a Custom Login Experience for Your Application

The login experience is perhaps the single most important user experience any app developer needs to consider. To provide a seamless, attractive, yet secure authentication experience is not a trivial task. And typically, the login logic goes hand in hand with other features such as password reset and registration. More importantly, enhanced security in the form of strong and adaptive authentication during login is often critical to many implementations.

Okta provides many options for developers around the authentication experience. The foundation is built on top of the underlying feature set in the Okta platform. Password policies, strong and adaptive authentication policies, password reset workflow, and more can all be configured easily in the Okta Admin console. Many of these policies can also be controlled through Okta’s API.

Okta provides the Authentication API, the Sign-in Widget and Auth JS SDK, and built-in support for social login:

Sign-In Widget

The Okta Sign-in Widget provides an embeddable Javascript sign-in implementation that can easily be embedded into your customized login page. The Sign-in widget carries the same feature set in the standard Okta sign-in page of every tenant – with the added flexibility to change the look-and-feel. Included in the widget is support for password reset, forgotten password and strong authentication – all of which are driven by policies configured in Okta. Developers don’t have to write a single line of code to trigger these functions from within the widget. For consumer facing sites, social providers are also supported in the widget.

Auth SDK

For those who are building a Javascript front end or Single Page App (SPA), the light-weight, JavaScript-based Okta Auth SDK gives you the added control beyond our sign-in widget to cater to your needs. This Javascript SDK provides all the standard login support including password management and strong authentication. In addition, social providers and OpenID Connect are also supported through the SDK where the appropriate ID tokens are returned for downstream authentication and authorization needs.

Authentication API

The underlying foundation for the Sign-In Widget and Auth SDK is a comprehensive authentication REST API exposed through the Okta Platform. Use it as a standalone API to provide the identity layer on top of your existing application and authentication logic, or use it with the Okta Sessions API to obtain an Okta session cookie and access apps within Okta. This session integration provides an SSO experience across custom and Okta-managed apps.

Social Login

For many consumer-facing applications, authentication and registration increasingly rely on social identity providers such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. Okta has built-in support for these social identity providers to support new user registration, authentication and profile updates based on OAuth scopes from the social providers. For applications that have existing accounts, Okta also provides support for account linking between existing Okta accounts and accounts on social identity providers.

Okta and Industry Standards

Okta builds its authentication flows to comply with industry standards OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect. As mentioned previously, the authentication flows are also built with SAML. Okta keeps up to date with the latest extensions to core standards, so you don’t have to.

You can build custom apps with either OpenID Connect or OAuth 2.0. For example, perhaps you want users to sign into your custom web application to access their account. In this case, OpenID Connect with Okta is all you need. However, if you also provide another application to vendors who can query your API directly, you’d want to use Okta’s API Access Management feature to secure your API as well as manage OpenID Connect for your customer app.

For more information about Okta and OpenID Connect, OAuth 2.0, and API Access Management, see API Access Management.