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Tech Brief: Citrix Workspace Essentials and Secure Private Access Getting Started Guide

  • Contributed By: Florin Lazurca Special Thanks To: Daniel Jim, Andre Leibovici


This guide demonstrates how to configure SaaS and internal web apps with single sign-on (SSO) in Citrix Workspace. The following is what the reader is able to accomplish using this deployment guide:

  • Learn the step-by-step process in configuring VPN-less access to internal web apps in Citrix Workspace
  • Learn the step-by-step process in configuring secure access to SaaS apps in Citrix Workspace
  • Learn the configurations required to enable second factor authentication to Citrix Workspace
  • Learn the configurations required to make SSO to SaaS/web apps integrate with third party SAML IdP like Okta and Azure Active Directory

Solution Overview

Citrix Workspace Essentials provides end users with simplified, secure, and VPN-less access to SaaS, Web Apps, and data that IT delivers, using single sign-on and multifactor authentication.




Figure 1: Citrix Workspace Essentials overview

Single sign-on to all applications

A user’s primary Workspace identity authorizes them to access SaaS and on-premises web apps. Many authorized resources require another authentication, often with an identity different from the user’s primary workspace identity. Citrix Workspace provides users with a seamless experience by providing single sign-on to these secondary resources.




Figure 2: Access to SaaS and on-premises web apps

For additional information on primary identity options for Citrix Workspace, refer to the Workspace - Primary Identity Tech Brief.

The first thing you notice is the ease of use. There are 300+ SAML SSO templates available for quick configuration of your web and SaaS apps. If you have an app that doesn’t have a pre-existing template, it only takes you a few more clicks to configure.




Figure 3: SAML SSO templates available for quick configuration

Multifactor authentication (MFA) using time-based one-time password (TOTP)

Citrix Workspace Essentials provides a cloud-hosted TOTP option for organizations using a Windows Active Directory as the primary identity. TOTP is a simple two-factor authentication inside the Citrix Workspace experience, using a time-sensitive one-time password generated for the user on their registered device. Watch this video to learn more.

Users are able to request and install a new token and admins can enable and disable TOTP multifactor authentication with minimal effort. When two-factor authentication is enabled inside the Citrix Workspace experience, it is enforced for all users on all access points.

  • Natively generated one-time password (OTP)
  • Supports on-premises Active Directory
  • User device / app must be registered with Citrix Cloud
  • OTP token generation and login
  • Self-service
  • Citrix SSO app, Google authenticator, Microsoft authenticator app




Figure 4: Natively generated one-time password

Support for Workspace experience (Workspace app)

Citrix Workspace Essentials supports Citrix Workspace experience through the Citrix Workspace app.

Read this Citrix Workspace App Tech Insight to learn more.

Global POP network

Citrix Workspace Essentials operates across the globe in multiple Points of Presence (POPs) in different countries and in different regions and expanding continuously. With PoPs in both Microsoft Azure POPs and in Amazon Web Services, customers are never too far away from a service node.

Every PoP is highly available and have redundant services running within a PoP if there is a failover. If in a catastrophic event an entire POP goes down which is low probability, users can still be serviced through next closest POP. Citrix Workspace Essentials has high built-in resiliency both within a PoP and across PoPs.

Usage Analytics for SaaS and Web Apps

Citrix Workspace Essentials includes Usage Analytics to provide end-to-end usage visibility across your SaaS and web app infrastructure. IT can track user login failures and gain insight into user adoption of applications, high usage periods, and data uploaded and downloaded by each user and application. This capability empowers IT to scale demand and reduce costs by deprecating low usage applications.




Figure 5: Usage Analytics provides end-to-end usage visibility

The SaaS and Web Apps dashboard provides Citrix Analytics administrators insight into SaaS and web apps published in Citrix Workspace. The following information can be found within the SaaS and Web Apps Dashboard:

  • Number of unique users using the SaaS and Web applications
  • Top SaaS and Web application users
  • Number of SaaS and Web applications launched
  • Top SaaS and Web applications
  • Top domains accessed by the users
  • Total amount of data uploaded and downloaded across users, applications, and domains

Recommended Architecture

The recommended architecture has the following components:

  • Citrix Workspace as the preferred end-user portal
  • Microsoft Active Directory is the user directory
  • Web apps are in corporate data center
  • Citrix Analytics provides usage metrics of SaaS/web apps
  • Okta and Azure AD are the SAML IdP for SaaS & Web apps (optional)
  • Access to Content Collaboration (when licensed)




Figure 6: Recommended architecture and components

Pre-requisites for configuring app access

  • Getting Started with Citrix Cloud
  • Make sure you have the right entitlements and / or trial enabled
  • Citrix Workspace Platform configurations required to setup the solution
    • Setting up Citrix Workspace
    • User Authentication
    • Tech Brief with all the different types of authentication methods to Citrix Workspace

Use case 1: Secure access to internal web apps

Citrix Workspace Essentials provides secure access to intranet web apps with SSO. Follow the SSO to Web Configuration Steps in the article to deploy this feature.




Figure 7: Secure access to intranet web apps with SSO

Use case 2: Secure access to SaaS apps

Citrix Workspace Essentials provides secure access to sanctioned SaaS apps with SSO. Follow the SSO to SaaS Configuration Steps in the article to deploy this feature.




Figure 8: Secure access to sanctioned SaaS apps with SSO

Use case 3: Configuring second factor authentication to Citrix Workspace

Citrix Workspace Essentials enables second factor authentication during user login to Citrix Workspace. Follow the steps in the Configuring AD + token in Identity and Access Management and Deploying Citrix Cloud Connector guides to deploy this feature.




Figure 9: Second factor authentication during user login to Citrix Workspace

Citrix Secure Private Access

Citrix Secure Private Access introduces more security features on top of the instant single-sign on (SSO) access to SaaS and web applications provided by Citrix Workspace Essentials. Unlike a traditional VPN, Secure Private Access provides a zero trust approach to securely access corporate web, SaaS, and virtual applications. With advanced security controls for managed, unmanaged, and BYO devices, it’s ideal for IT and employees alike.

Secure Private Access combines elements of several Citrix Cloud services to deliver an integrated experience for end users and administrators. These include granular and contextual security policies, app protection policies for all apps, web browser isolation, and web filtering policies.

For more information about Citrix Secure Private Access, see Citrix Secure Private Access in Citrix product documentation and Citrix Secure Private Access Tech Brief

Secure Private Access Use Case 1 - Applying Enhanced Security to SaaS and Web Apps

SaaS apps have grown in popularity because of their simplicity and zero dependencies on managed infrastructure. However, many lack the security controls and governance that IT needs to meet corporate security standards. Also, many organizations welcome the opportunity to add layers of security to their on-premises web apps.

Citrix Secure Private Access enables IT to apply these added security controls to both SaaS and web apps to prevent data exfiltration. The controls include policies to restrict copying and pasting, printing, downloads, navigation, watermarking (overlays a screen-based watermark showing the user name and IP address of the endpoint), and more.

Citrix Secure Private Access includes the Citrix Enterprise Browser (formerly Citrix Workspace Browser). It's a secure enterprise browser capable of applying enhanced security policies. Each policy enforces a restriction through the browser when using the Citrix Workspace app for desktop or Citrix Remote Browser Isolation service when using the Citrix Workspace app web or mobile.

Enhanced security with App Protection provides IT with a way to enforce security policies on both web and SaaS applications that they provision to employees. These policies protect data stored in these applications by applying the security controls detailed in Enhanced Security.

Secure Private Access Use Case 2 - Protecting BYO and Unmanaged Devices

The increase in flexible work and the use of personal devices for work have created security challenges. IT cannot defend against devices infected with malware with no insight into device health. It is especially true on devices with keyloggers or screenshot malware that can enable attackers to exfiltrate sensitive corporate data.

Corporate-managed devices go through regular health checks to ensure that devices meet safety requirements. However, most end users do not take the same care with personal devices. So if a user accesses corporate resources like apps or document repositories, the malware can exfiltrate login information and any data presented on the user’s screen.

App protection secures unmanaged devices by scrambling keystrokes and returning screenshots as blank screens, protecting corporate data from keyloggers, or screenshot malware.

Using Enhanced security policies, Secure Private Access gives admins the ability to protect their organizations from data loss and credential theft. Enhanced security policies are even more critical when employees use personal devices to access corporate resources. Read more here: Protecting BYO

Secure Private Access Use Case 3 - Using Secure Browser Policy and Isolation

Browsing the internet poses another risk to enterprises, exposing them to vulnerabilities in websites, browsers, and browser plug-ins. Malware that might live on employees’ devices can also pose a serious risk to corporate resources.

While most users understand they shouldn’t visit potentially risky websites on their corporate-issued devices, they might not take the same care with their personal ones. In response, some organizations even completely disallow internet browsing, severely affecting productivity.

Whenever enhanced security policies are enabled, the browser is used. But suppose the user is not using Citrix Workspace, but rather a native browser. Then a more secure mechanism is required.

Citrix Remote Browser Isolation service, a Chromium-based browser hosted in Microsoft Azure, enables users to navigate the web and apps securely without introducing risk to the corporate environment. Threats that can be introduced by visiting malicious websites are isolated off the corporate network and devices. The browser is stateless and discarded at the end of each session, ensuring that any malicious software encountered while browsing the web never reaches your corporate infrastructure.

Secure Private Access enables end users to safely browse the internet. When an end user launches a SaaS application from Citrix Workspace, several decisions are dynamically made to decide how best to serve this SaaS application. Secure Private Access provides three ways to serve this application to the end-user. Read more here: Browser Isolation

Secure Private Access Use Case 4 - Security Analytics for SaaS and Web Apps

The Citrix product portfolio is extensive, and the cloud services are designed from the ground up to interact and amplify each other. As part of this portfolio, you have Citrix Analytics for Security. Citrix Analytics for Security natively integrates with Citrix Secure Private Access. It provides continuous monitoring, risk assessment, and mitigation to protect organizations during and after the initial user login, across different applications and clouds, for both compliance and governance.

Using this continuous monitoring, the system can identify inconsistent and suspicious activities, providing actionable insights into user behavior across Identity, Devices, Locations, Networks, Apps, and Files.

For example, assume a user is downloading excessive amounts of data via the VPN-less connection. In that case, an action can be triggered to request a user’s response to validate the user's identity or email the user to verify their activity and put them on a watch list. And based on the user’s reply response, a secondary action can be initiated.

These rules can be configured to trigger user accounts’ specific actions based on continuously assessed user risk score thresholds. For example, an end-user session authenticated into Citrix Workspace can be logged off based on a change in risk score in real-time.

End users invariably access SaaS apps that have enhanced security enabled. The Citrix Workspace app, the Citrix Gateway service, and the Remote Browser Isolation service provide the Security analytics service with information about the following user and application behaviors. Usage Analytics provides insights into the basic usage data of Secure Private Access. Admins get the visibility into how users interact with the SaaS and Web applications that are being used in their organization. Read more here: Security Analytics

Secure Private Access Enhanced Security Demo

See how Citrix Secure Private Access provides Enhanced Security for Web and SaaS Applications and the end user experience.

Watch this video to see demo:

Citrix Secure Private Access SSO to SaaS Apps Demo

See how Citrix Secure Private Access provides single sign-on to SaaS Applications and the end user experience.

Watch this video to see demo:


Citrix Secure Private Access VPN-less access Demo

See how Citrix Secure Private Access provides VPN-less access to Web Applications and the end user experience.

Watch this video to see demo:


Citrix Secure Private Access Website Filtering Demo

See how Citrix Secure Private Access provides Website Filtering for Web and SaaS Applications and the end user experience.

Watch this video to see demo:

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