Best Practices to secure/ manage your Service Account

Best Practices to secure/ manage your Service Account

Service accounts are just as important to consider when it comes to the smooth operation of IT systems.

One of the most daunting challenges for IT professionals is managing service accounts. These are the privileged accounts that run automated business processes and are used by applications, not people. They can be stored in services, tasks, SharePoint, databases, and applications.

 As organizations grow, manual management of service accounts becomes overwhelming and laborious because of the number of applications and services accessed by them. Due to the pervasiveness and proliferation of service accounts, and the increasing risk of them being an easy target, it is important to actively monitor, administer, and audit the use of these accounts.

“Manage your service accounts with ease—no more nightmares, just control.”

Here are some best practices to help you effectively manage and safeguard your service accounts from attacks.


1) Discover your organization’s service accounts.

You can not protect your service accounts if you have not identified them yet. The first step in securing service accounts is to discover them throughout the network and within applications and to identify the activities tied to them. This will help IT admins uncover and fortify the security loopholes that provide a backdoor entry to privileged data.

2) Set guidelines for service account provisioning

Organizations should establish guidelines for who can create service accounts and what level of access they should have. For example, only administrators should be able to create new service accounts and assign permissions. Creating too many service accounts can increase the risk of unauthorized access, so it’s important to limit creation to those who really need them and understand the permission level needed for the account to operate successfully.

The service account guidelines should address these questions:

  • Who should create service accounts, and who should approve access to them?

  • Who will be the default owner of service accounts?

  • How often will these accounts be reviewed? Will the review process be aligned with internal policy and/or compliance requirements?

  • What will be the password policy for service accounts?

  • If a service account has to be renewed, does it have to go through an approval process that is similar to account creation?

  • Is there a provision to automatically decommission expired/inactive service accounts?

3) Secure access to service accounts

To counter the risks of service account abuse, organizations should strongly consider investing in privileged access management (PAM) solutions, which aid in streamlining the management of the service account lifecycle.

PAM tools enable IT admins to develop strong governance over the service accounts spread across the corporate network using effective automation to discover, secure, and monitor access to these accounts.

4) Perform regular audits 

Audits directly play a very important role in periodically inspecting all service accounts and activity logs. We want to know what users are doing, what permissions they have, and if any permissions infringe upon pre-determined security guidelines. Audits can thus uncover suspicious activities or find vulnerabilities, either passive or active.  

Password policies are also crucial. How often are passwords rotated? How many characters do they have, and how complex are they?


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