What are Service Accounts, and why are they important to secure?

What are service accounts?

Service Accounts are Non-Human Identity accounts used by machines or apps to communicate with one another within a system, unlike user or human accounts.

Service Accounts, using machine credentials, provide privileged identities and permissions for applications, scripts, services, or virtual machines to perform tasks or access resources. This allows different systems to work together efficiently and automatically within an organization’s environment.

For example, a backup service might use a service account to access and backup data from cloud storage or databases. A monitoring tool might use a service account to collect metrics and logs within an environment.

Why is it important to secure service accounts?

While user accounts are usually managed with great attention and rotated frequently, Astrix has found that service accounts are often overly permissive by design and allow unnecessary access privileges. 

Service accounts often have never-expiring access, are not monitored routinely, and have weak credentials, which increases the risks they pose if compromised. 

For these reasons, service accounts are valuable targets for attackers to exploit, as recent attacks, like Okta or Solarwinds, have shown. A service account has its own unique credentials. If those are compromised, an attacker can access the entire organization’s environment, not just the service account itself

How can you secure your environment’s service accounts?

Your organization should employ the following practices to protect against the risks posed by service accounts: 

  1. Ensure service accounts have only the least privileges and permissions required to perform their intended tasks.
  2. Regularly rotate service account credentials and set expiration dates to limit the window of opportunity for attackers.
  3. Implement management policies, monitoring, and inventorying to track service accounts in your environment to detect anomalies and suspicious behaviors.

Astrix was made to secure and manage the risks associated with service accounts and other non-human identities without impeding business agility and automation. See how it works here

For Further reading:

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