CAA Saskatchewan shifts to single-sign on access system

Workers at CAA Saskatchewan have to be more mobile than many. That was one of the drivers behind the installation of a new single sign-on access control system at the multi-service travel organisation in Canada’s heartlands.

CAA Saskatchewan is one of nine regional clubs forming the Canadian Automobile Association. Employees range from travel agents providing booking and scheduling services for clients, through to tow truck operators providing roadside assistance on the province’s network of rural roads.

The provincial organisation has 185 different applications, many offered by different external partners.

“The original program was developed for the travel industry as well as for the member services representatives,” said Jarrett Swereda, senior business analyst at CAA Saskatchewan. “They would deal with multiple hundreds of sites, every day, coming from different vendors for cars, rentals, cruises, and hotels.”

The travel service provider previously relied on an access control system developed in conjunction with other clubs, explained Swereda. That software, which has been in operation for many years, was developed to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8.

Not being able to upgrade to a more modern browser creates a security risk. The system didn’t allow for external access from mobile devices, either.

Moving to Active Directory

The old system was not based on Active Directory, the standard internal directory system for CAA Saskatchewan.

“Every system had their own login with their own credentials stored in there. It was an early edition of a single sign-on (SSO) system that didn’t have any cross-browser capabilities,” Swereda said.

All of these things were slowing the operation down, and preventing it from upgrading its client-side browser infrastructure.

CAA Saskatchewan selected Centrify, a provider of identity management software, for a systems upgrade.

Swereda and his team designed and deployed the Centrify system in just three weeks, bringing several benefits to the organisation. The first was the ability to tie access control into Active Directory.

The Active Directory integration enabled the company to divide up application access based on existing security roles within the Microsoft directory system. This means that an employee with a particular role, such as a member services representative, won’t see the plethora of other applications that don’t relate to their job.

“Now we’re able to submit these groups and say ‘these are the applications you get to see’,” he said. “In the old application, it was all or nothing.”

Marrying the access control system to Active Directory also enables CAA Saskatchewan to manage employee lifecycles more effectively.

“We had a bunch of accounts hanging around at once and didn’t know whether they were active or not active,” said Swereda, explaining that managing these accounts created extra headaches for the IT team.

Now, disabling an account in Active Directory when an employee leaves also switches off their application access, removing another security risk.

Putting employees on the road

Now that Centrify has enabled integrated SSO for employees, Swereda’s team is exploring rolling it out to the entire workforce.

At present, CAA Saskatchewan has upgraded the travel services employees, and member services representatives to the system. 50 per cent of employees will be upgraded in due course, covering emergency roadside assistance, administrative staff in accounting and IT, and the organisation’s executive team.

The next stage will also involve updating applications for mobile access via the Centrify platform. This will include rolling out mobile access to the member services team, who handle sales in the field.

Saskatchewan is a largely rural area, with many farmers scattered along its 26,000 km of roads. It has a population density of 1.8 people per square km, compared to 3.7 people nationally. That equates to a lot of travelling.

“These guys are going out to the farms and the acreages and a lot of times they’re approaching people to see why they didn’t renew, and trying to convince them and explain the benefits of their membership,” Swereda said.

“A lot of time they’re taking payments and processing them on the spot. Being able to move that into a web-based application has huge benefits, because they don’t have to worry about getting back into an office or phoning in information.”

CAA Saskatchewan will also migrate tow truck operators from a mobile application installed natively on a device, to a web-based application. This will let the drivers authenticate themselves with a dispatch system, to pick up directions to new jobs online.

“It will also provide them with the ability to manage these calls themselves, so that they can mark when they are en route, taking some of the work away from the dispatchers, and putting it in the hands of the drivers,” Swereda concluded.

Now, Saskatchewan’s go-to place for travel services has the platform for a faster, more efficient service.

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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