Service account password management refers to a process for orchestrating changes to service account passwords in a security database or directory with matching notification to subscribers (i.e., those OS components which start unattended processes such as services and scheduled jobs) of new password values.
Service accounts on the Windows platform are often protected with a password. Due to the complexity involved in coordinating a change for these passwords across an enterprise, it is common practice for companies to exclude them from their normal password management policies. This, of course, represents a significant security risk because the longer a password remains unchanged, the higher the chance that it may be compromised by an attacker.
Attack methods may include:
The solution to all of these security concerns is obvious: implement an automated process to periodically change service account passwords to new and random values, without exposing them at any time to human operators. If, for whatever reason, humans do require manual access to some of these accounts (for example, to schedule a new job or install a new service), control access to these accounts and promptly change their password as soon as possible. Having these processes and controls in place will limit the time available to an attacker to compromise a service account password.
Hitachi ID Privileged Access Manager can be configured to secure service account passwords. This means two things, depending on the mode of operation:
In both cases, Privileged Access Manager must notify the program that launches services -- the subscriber -- of the new password value, so that it can successfully launch the service at the time of the next system restart or when an administrator manually stops and restarts the service in question. In some cases, for example when domain accounts are used to run services, an immediate restart may be required or advisable, due to Kerberos token expiry. Privileged Access Manager can be configured to restart services after each automated password change.
Privileged Access Manager includes extensive automation to discover subscribers and subscriber-to-service-account dependency. This allows Hitachi ID Systems customers to review what services are run in the security context of what named users, on what systems. This is particularly helpful where services run in the security context of domain accounts, since multiple services on multiple servers may run as the same service account and may therefore require notification after each password change.
Privileged Access Manager includes several mechanisms to accomplish safe and secure changes to service account passwords:
The above are primarily used when managed systems are integrated with Privileged Access Manager in "push mode" -- i.e., there is no locally installed agent on the target system and Privileged Access Manager initiates all connections remotely, over the network, directly or via a Privileged Access Manager proxy server deployed near the target system.
Where push mode is inappropriate -- for example because the relevant services (remote registry, WMI, etc.) are disabled or firewalled or because the end system is offline or inaccessible due to name resolution or IP routing issues (NAT, etc.), a local workstation service can be installed on the managed system, which performs essentially the same functions but with much simpler connectivity (call home over HTTPS) and no need for network accessible services on the local system.
The local workstation service is most often used on laptops and in firewalled network segments (DMZs).
Privileged Access Manager is normally configured to contact application owners after each password change and in the event of a problem. This makes troubleshooting easier in the event that notification failed and a service subsequently could not be started.
The entire infrastructure mentioned here is extensible. Customers can expand it to support other process-launching systems, such as third job party schedulers for example.