Learn about OIDC (OpenID Connect) and its role in simplifying user authentication and enhancing security. Explore the benefits of adding Single Sign-On (SSO) to OIDC and follow step-by-step instructions for implementing OIDC into your application.

Adding SSO to Your Application with OIDC: Step by Step

What Is OIDC?

OIDC, short for OpenID Connect, is an identity layer that sits on top of the OAuth 2.0 protocol. The primary purpose of OIDC is to allow clients to verify the identity of end-users based on the authentication that is performed by an authorization server. Additionally, it also provides basic profile information about the end-user in a simple and restful manner.

OIDC authentication extends the OAuth 2.0 protocol, adding an identity layer on top of it. This identity layer enables clients, including both web-based and mobile applications, to request and receive information about authenticated sessions and end-users. The protocol is designed to be easy to use, with simple endpoints, standard tokens, and a straightforward user experience.

OIDC is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to handling authentication in a distributed or microservices architecture. With OIDC, you can have a central authentication server that all your services can trust, which simplifies the security model within your application ecosystem.

Benefits of Adding SSO to OIDC

Single Sign-On (SSO) is a session and user authentication service that allows a user to use one set of login credentials to access multiple applications. By adding SSO to OIDC, you can further simplify the authentication process, enhancing the user experience and improving security.

One of the most significant benefits of adding SSO to OIDC is that it reduces the need for users to remember multiple usernames and passwords. This not only simplifies the user experience but also mitigates the risk of password-related security breaches. With fewer passwords to manage, users are less likely to resort to insecure practices like writing passwords down or using the same password across multiple platforms.

Another advantage of SSO is that it streamlines the authentication process across multiple applications. This means that once a user is authenticated on one application, they can seamlessly access other applications without needing to log in again. This can save users a significant amount of time, particularly in an enterprise setting where they may need to access multiple applications daily.

Adding SSO to Your Application with OIDC: Step-by-Step Implementation

Step 1: Registering Your Application with the IdP

The first step in implementing OIDC into your application involves registering your application with an Identity Provider (IdP). An IdP is a service that authenticates users and provides identity information to your application. In the context of OIDC, popular IdPs include Google, Microsoft, and Okta.

When registering your application, you will need to provide some basic information such as your application's name, logo, and redirect URLs. The redirect URLs are important because they are where the IdP will send the user after they have been authenticated. Once your application is registered, the IdP will provide you with a client ID and client secret, which your application will use to communicate with the IdP.

Step 2: Configuring OIDC Settings

The next step is to configure your OIDC settings. This involves setting up your application to communicate with the IdP using the client ID and client secret you received when registering your application.

You will also need to configure the scopes for your OIDC requests. Scopes determine what kind of user information your application can request from the IdP. Common scopes include "openid," which is required for OIDC requests, "profile," which requests basic profile information, and "email," which requests the user's email address. See the full list of scopes in the OIDC documentation.

Additionally, you will need to configure your OIDC endpoints. These are the URLs your application will use to communicate with the IdP. The authorization endpoint is where your application sends users to be authenticated, the token endpoint is where your application requests tokens, and the user info endpoint is where your application requests user information.

Step 3: Integrating OIDC Library or SDK with Your Application

Once your OIDC settings are configured, the next step is to integrate an OIDC library or SDK into your application. This will provide you with the necessary tools to handle the OIDC authentication flow.

There are many OIDC libraries and SDKs available, and the one you choose will depend on your application's programming language. For example, if you're developing a Python application, you might choose pyoidc, while a Java application might use AppAuth.

Integrating the library or SDK typically involves adding it as a dependency in your application and initializing it with your OIDC settings. This will usually involve creating an instance of the library or SDK and passing in your client ID, client secret, and OIDC endpoints.

Step 4: Setting Up Authentication Flow

With your OIDC library or SDK integrated, you can now set up your OIDC authentication flow. This is the process through which your application will authenticate users and receive tokens from the IdP.

The OIDC authentication flow typically involves the following steps:

  1. Your application redirects the user to the IdP's authorization endpoint.
  2. The user authenticates with the IdP.
  3. The IdP redirects the user back to your application, including an authorization code in the redirect URL.
  4. Your application exchanges the authorization code for tokens at the IdP's token endpoint.
  5. The IdP responds with an ID token and an access token.

Step 5: Retrieving and Validating ID Tokens

Once your application has received an ID token from the IdP, the next step is to retrieve and validate it. Validating the ID token ensures that it was issued by the expected IdP and that it hasn't been tampered with.

Retrieving the ID token involves parsing it from the IdP's response. The ID token will be a JSON Web Token (JWT), which is a compact, URL-safe means of representing claims to be transferred between two parties.

Validating the ID token involves checking its signature, its issuer, and its audience. The signature ensures that the token hasn't been tampered with, the issuer should match the expected IdP, and the audience should match your application's client ID.

Step 6: Extracting User Information from ID Tokens

The ID token not only serves as proof of authentication, but also contains claims about the authenticated user. These claims can include the user's name, email address, and more.

Extracting user information from the ID token involves decoding the JWT and parsing the claims. The exact claims included in the ID token will depend on the scopes you configured in your OIDC settings.

Step 7: Creating or Updating User Sessions

With the user's information extracted from the ID token, you can now create or update a user session in your application. This session will allow the user to remain authenticated as they navigate through your application.

Creating or updating a user session typically involves storing the user's information and the tokens received from the IdP in a session object. You might also set a cookie in the user's browser to keep them logged in.

Step 8: Handling Token Expiration and Refresh

Finally, it's important to handle token expiration and refresh. OIDC tokens are not meant to be permanent and will expire after a certain amount of time.

When a token expires, your application will need to either prompt the user to reauthenticate or use a refresh token to get a new access token from the IdP. Handling token expiration properly is crucial for maintaining a seamless user experience.

Best Practices and Security Considerations

When it comes to implementing OIDC, there are several best practices and security considerations to keep in mind:

Always Use HTTPS for Authentication Transactions

HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is a protocol used to secure communications over a computer network. It works by encrypting the data that is sent between the client and the server, thereby preventing malicious actors from intercepting or tampering with the data.

By using HTTPS for authentication transactions, you can protect sensitive information like usernames and passwords from being intercepted by malicious actors. This is particularly crucial in the context of OIDC, where the authentication transactions may involve transmitting sensitive information like tokens and client secrets.

Regularly Rotate Client Secrets

A client secret is a piece of confidential information that is used to authenticate the client to the authorization server. By regularly rotating client secrets, you can reduce the risk of them being compromised, thereby enhancing the overall security of your OIDC implementation.

Validate Tokens

Validating tokens is a crucial part of OIDC, and it's something that should not be overlooked. This involves checking the integrity and authenticity of the tokens to ensure that they have not been tampered with.

Avoid Over-Reliance on Third-Party Libraries

It's also essential to avoid over-reliance on third-party libraries when implementing OIDC. While these libraries can be useful, they may not always be up-to-date or secure. Therefore, it's crucial to understand the underlying protocols and be prepared to validate tokens manually if necessary.

Keep Libraries and SDKs Updated to the Latest Versions

Lastly, it's essential to keep your libraries and SDKs updated to the latest versions. This is because new versions often come with security updates and bug fixes that can enhance the security and performance of your OIDC implementation. By keeping your libraries and SDKs up-to-date, you can protect your OIDC implementation from known vulnerabilities and ensure that it continues to function optimally.


In conclusion, OIDC is a powerful tool that can simplify the authentication process and enhance the security of your applications. By understanding what OIDC is, the benefits of adding SSO to OIDC, and the associated best practices and security considerations, you can implement OIDC effectively and securely.

Remember, secure authentication is not a one-time thing but a continuous process that involves regular updates, vigilance, and adherence to best practices. So, keep learning, keep updating, and keep your applications secure.

Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership.