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Service Account

Secure and govern service accounts
that run critical IT systems


Hundreds of thousands of services rely on privileged accounts to run critical IT processes, but they often aren’t understood and are tricky and time-consuming to govern.


Without oversight, service account passwords aren’t rotated, expiration dates pass or are never set, and accounts are never decommissioned, opening the door to cyber-attacks.


Automated privileged account governance prevents service account sprawl by managing service accounts’ lifecycle from provisioning through decommissioning.

What is a Service Account?

Service accounts are high-risk privileged accounts. They run scheduled tasks, batch jobs, application pools within IIS, and more across a complex network of databases, applications, and file systems. With outsourced IT operations, the proliferation of IoT, and the adoption of IaaS and PaaS platforms, understanding the landscape of services and the privileged accounts that run them is extremely challenging for IT and security teams. Service account management, therefore, has arisen as a top priority for many organizations.

Team with access to service accounts
Online meeting - team managing account sprawl

What causes service account sprawl?

Service accounts aren’t tied to a unique human identity which decreases accountability and makes proper service account governance difficult, if not impossible. As a result, a system tied to a service account may no longer be needed, but the account may live on because no one is held responsible. Or, service accounts may have been set up for temporary purposes, like software installation or system maintenance, but left in place long after they are needed, often with default passwords.

The governance problem starts when services are set up. Centrally provisioning service accounts have been nearly impossible with existing technologies, so provisioning service accounts properly is time-consuming. Many organizations sidestep best practices. Default settings are often kept in place. Instead of creating unique accounts, credentials are often shared across multiple services in violation of least privilege and compliance policies.

Lack of service account governance violates security compliance requirements and increases the potential for cyber-attack. Without governance:

  • You can’t ensure strong password strength across all accounts.
  • You can’t control access to service account passwords.
  • You can’t change passwords on service accounts without knowing the applications that are dependent on that credential for daily operation.
  • You can’t maintain the required audit reports to prove compliance.

When security best practices aren’t followed for service accounts, former employees retain knowledge of privileged credentials and could use them to cause harm. When hackers gain access to service account privileges, they can disrupt not just one service but an entire network of business-critical systems.

Solutions for Service Account Governance

Traditionally, security and IT teams have attempted to manage service accounts manually. But, as organizations grow and accounts also manage cloud services, the number and access patterns of service accounts become overwhelming.

Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) tools help manage individuals’ passwords and privileged accounts but don’t provide management of non-human accounts such as service accounts. Integrations between PAM and IGA tools can’t solve the problem adequately as they are fundamentally focused on different types of accounts.

Man looking at monitor
Multiple computers access service accounts

Enterprise password protection must also secure third-party access

Enterprise password protection goes beyond managing internal employee passwords. Contractors and partners may also need limited or temporary passwords, which you need to create, manage and remove when their lifespan is over. To keep tabs on third-party behavior in real-time, you may want to require an internal employee to authorize their access or even monitor and record sessions.

To solve the problem of service account sprawl, governance of service accounts has become a mandatory requirement for a comprehensive PAM solution.

Try Account Lifecycle Manager

Free for 30 Days

See how you can increase accountability, consistency, and oversight of service account management:

  • Protect Critical IT Resources
  • Reduce Service Account Sprawl
  • Save Management Time and Effort

quotation markPrivileged Access Governance or PAG is fast becoming a crucial discipline of Privileged Access Management (PAM) to help organizations gain required visibility into the state of privileged access necessary to support the decision-making process and comply with regulations.”

– Anmol Sing, KuppingerCole

Read the full analyst report, Privileged Access Governance

Privileged Access Governance solutions increase accountability and oversight

Build a prioritized service account governance plan that lowers your risk, saves you time, and keeps you competitive and compliant.

  • Build a prioritized service account governance plan that lowers your risk, saves you time, and keeps you competitive and compliant.
  • Set up account ownership and management from the start
  • Make sure new accounts conform to foundational security guidelines such as password rotation and password expiration
  • Assign privileges for service accounts on a least privilege basis
  • Track accounts across the lifecycle to highlight policy violations and avoid orphaned accounts
  • Set up approval and remediation workflows
  • Document service account dependencies
  • Conduct access reconciliations to confirm users only have rights necessary
  • Decommission accounts that are no longer in use
  • Monitor, audit, and document privileged activities for regulatory compliance
Woman on laptop oversees services accounts
Watch the webinar

Top 10 Service Account Management Best Practices

Get the answers to these important questions:

  • What is (and isn’t) a service account, and why are they so risky?
  • How do most organizations manage service accounts?
  • What are the important steps in securing my service accounts?
  • Why are IT Admins reluctant to get rid of risky service accounts?
  • How do I automate the management of my service accounts?

Our Speaker

Barbara HoffmanBarbara Hoffman
Product Marketing Manager
Billy VanCannonBilly VanCannon
Director Product Management
Service Account Discovery Tool

Free Tool

How well do you know
your service accounts?

Thycotic’s free tool, Service Account Discovery Tool for Windows, measures the state of privileged access entitlements in your Active Directory service accounts and exposes areas of highest concern in your attack surface:

  • Aged service accounts and passwords that may no longer be used
  • Expired service account passwords that require changing
  • Service accounts and passwords without expiration requirements
  • Services that share privileged credentials, violating least privilege policies

With this information, you can start to build a prioritized service account governance plan that reduces your risk and keeps you competitive and compliant.