Can I Use SAML for Mobile App?

Denise Wilkinson

SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) is a widely used standard for exchanging authentication and authorization data between parties, particularly in web-based applications. SAML provides a secure way to authenticate users without the need for transmitting sensitive information like usernames and passwords over the internet. However, many people wonder if SAML can be used for mobile apps as well.

Can I Use SAML for Mobile App?

The short answer is yes, you can use SAML for mobile app authentication. In fact, many mobile apps already use SAML to authenticate users securely. However, there are certain things to consider before implementing SAML in your mobile app.

How Does SAML Work?

Before we dive into the topic of using SAML in mobile apps, let’s first understand how it works. In a typical web-based application scenario, the user tries to access a protected resource on a service provider (SP) site that requires authentication.

The SP then redirects the user to an identity provider (IdP), where the user authenticates using their credentials like username and password. Once authenticated, the IdP sends an assertion back to the SP containing information about the user’s identity and authorization level.

The assertion contains digitally signed XML documents that verify that the user is authenticated and authorized to access the requested resource. This process ensures that sensitive information like usernames and passwords are not transmitted over insecure channels.

Using SAML in Mobile Apps

When it comes to using SAML in mobile apps, there are two main approaches:

  • Embedded Browser Approach: The embedded browser approach involves embedding a browser control within your mobile app that loads an IdP’s login page. Once the user logs in successfully, they are redirected back to your app with an assertion containing their identity information.
  • Simplified Sign-On Approach: The simplified sign-on approach involves using a mobile SDK (Software Development Kit) provided by the IdP to authenticate users. This approach uses APIs to communicate with the IdP and retrieve the necessary tokens for authentication.

Both approaches have their pros and cons. The embedded browser approach is simpler to implement but may not provide a seamless user experience. The simplified sign-on approach provides a better user experience, but it requires more work on the client-side.

Conclusion

In conclusion, SAML can be used for mobile app authentication, but it requires careful consideration of the specific requirements of your app. Before implementing SAML in your app, you should consider which approach best fits your needs and whether you need additional security measures like multi-factor authentication. With proper planning and implementation, SAML can provide a secure and seamless way to authenticate users in your mobile app.