Understanding Orphaned Accounts: A Complete Guide for 2023


As an IT manager, ensuring the secure management of data, applications, and systems has become paramount. Unfortunately, one significant vulnerability that often lurks beneath the surface is the presence of orphaned accounts. 

These overlooked accounts, not associated with any active user, can pose serious risks to data integrity and expose your organization to potential security breaches.

Let’s say, for example, a talented content marketer who has been working at a company for five years decides to move on from the company. Most user accounts are properly deactivated or deleted during the offboarding process. However, there's a single account that escapes attention. This particular account grants access to a legacy system the marketer seldom uses.

Over time, this forgotten account becomes an "orphaned account." No one realizes its existence, and it remains active, posing a security risk. If exploited, it could lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data or systems.

This example illustrates the concept of orphaned accounts, where user accounts or access privileges are left unattended after an employee's departure, leading to potential security risks and the importance of understanding and managing them effectively. 

You must implement proper procedures, conduct regular audits, and leverage tools like automated solutions to promptly identify and address orphaned accounts, ensuring a robust cybersecurity posture and safeguarding critical resources.

So, why is understanding and managing orphaned accounts absolutely vital for your organization?

  • Security: Neglected accounts pose a potential risk, as malicious entities could exploit these unattended gateways to gain unauthorized access to your systems. This could result in severe data breaches and potential financial ramifications. Consequently, safeguarding your sensitive information and intellectual property becomes a top priority.

  • Compliance: In today's regulatory landscape, adhering to industry standards and data protection laws is non-negotiable. Your teams are tasked with maintaining vigilant oversight of user access, consistently assessing privileges, and retracting unneeded permissions. Overlooking orphaned accounts could potentially result in violations of compliance protocols, inviting substantial penalties.

  • Resource optimization: Orphaned accounts are like unused seats on a fully-booked flight. Without contributing to your business objectives, they consume valuable resources, including licenses, server space, and IT support. By identifying and eliminating these accounts, you free up resources for active users, optimizing your operations and saving costs.

Common Reasons for Accounts Becoming Orphaned

Understanding the common reasons for orphaned accounts is crucial in fortifying your cybersecurity defense. By recognizing the potential pitfalls, you can proactively implement strategies to mitigate risks and maintain a robust digital infrastructure.

  • Employee turnover: Employee turnover refers to the rate at which employees leave an organization and new employees join. When talented individuals leave an organization, their user accounts might remain active and unmonitored, especially during the transition period. The rush of managing these transitions can lead to unintentional oversight of deactivating or deleting accounts.

  • Mergers & acquisitions or organizational changes: Mergers, acquisitions, and other organizational changes can bring about significant challenges in managing user accounts. Amidst the complexity of restructuring, some accounts might be neglected, resulting in dormant and unnoticed accounts.

  • System migrations: Migrating to new and advanced systems can be exciting but overwhelming. During such transitions, certain accounts might not be properly transferred or deactivated, potentially leaving vulnerable access points in the system.

  • Negligence or oversight: Even well-intentioned admins may occasionally overlook the need to remove no longer necessary accounts. This inadvertent negligence can create opportunities for unauthorized access to your organization's resources.

    Consider a reputable law firm that unintentionally retains the account of a paralegal who departed the firm twelve months back. The paralegal's account retains its ability to access sensitive case documents and client correspondences. This situation could potentially result in unauthorized access to the firm's valuable resources.

  • Outdated documentation: In the dynamic business environment, documentation might not always keep pace with changes. Outdated or inaccurate records can lead to orphaned accounts that go unnoticed among the vast amount of data.

    For instance, a tech startup hires new employees and assigns accounts based on an old organizational chart. This leads to new hires receiving access to systems they shouldn't have access to, causing a breach in confidentiality.

  • Account holder's inactivity or departure: Accounts can become abandoned when the account holder remains inactive for extended periods or takes prolonged leaves of absence. Without periodic reviews, these accounts might be forgotten and left active.

    For instance, in an engineering firm, the head developer goes on an extended sabbatical without appropriately deactivating their account. During this absence, an unauthorized individual can gain entry to the developer's account and exploit their login credentials.

  • Security breaches: In the unfortunate event of a security breach, immediate attention focuses on damage control. During this chaos, some accounts may remain unattended, providing openings for further exploitation by malicious actors. It is essential to promptly address and secure all accounts to prevent further damage.

4 Best Practices for Managing Orphaned Accounts

To mitigate risks posed by orphaned accounts and ensure the security of your organizational systems, you should adopt the following best practices:

1. Ensuring robust account deprovisioning & access control procedures

When an employee departs from your organization, prompt and efficient deactivation or deletion of their accounts becomes crucial. Failing to do so can expose your organization to significant security risks, potentially leading to unauthorized access and the misuse of valuable company resources. 

To safeguard against these threats, a well-defined process should be established to revoke user access to all systems and applications, thereby ensuring that former employees no longer retain any privileges within the organization.

By adhering to such practices, your teams can significantly reduce the likelihood of security breaches stemming from orphaned accounts. The deprovisioning process acts as a vital line of defense, preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information and bolstering the overall cybersecurity infrastructure.

Implementing robust account deprovisioning and access control procedures demonstrates a commitment to safeguarding confidential data and maintaining the integrity of business operations. Your partners and clients are more likely to trust your organization if you take proactive measures to protect their information.

2. Conducting regular & thorough account audits & reviews

Employee roles may shift, or team members might depart from your organization, inadvertently leaving behind inactive or orphaned accounts within your systems. Such dormant accounts can serve as vulnerable entry points for unauthorized access or malicious activities, posing substantial risks to your sensitive data and confidential information.

By implementing a well-structured routine for account audits, you gain the ability to promptly identify and eliminate these dormant or unnecessary accounts from your network. This proactive approach aids in mitigating security threats and safeguarding your organization's valuable assets.

Furthermore, conducting regular account reviews ensures that all active accounts align with the latest security policies and compliance requirements. Staying updated with the rapidly changing cybersecurity landscape is essential, and these reviews act as a safeguard against unauthorized access, reducing the likelihood of potential breaches and data leakages.

Conducting periodic account audits and reviews demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a robust and secure your business environment. It reflects your dedication to safeguarding your company's proprietary information and the sensitive data entrusted to you by your clients and partners.

By continually optimizing your access control infrastructure through these audits, you reinforce confidence in your business relationships, showcasing your adherence to industry best practices and data security standards. Ultimately, this approach fosters trust and reliability, positioning your organization as a reliable and security-conscious partner in the SaaS landscape.

3. Utilizing automated solutions for effective orphaned account detection

Manual identification of orphaned accounts can be a cumbersome and error-prone process, consuming valuable time and resources. To optimize this workflow and ensure precision, your organization should turn to the power of automated solutions specifically designed for detecting and handling orphaned accounts.

You can significantly improve your account management procedures by embracing automated tools tailored to orphaned account detection. These cutting-edge solutions continuously monitor user activity across various systems and applications, efficiently cross-referencing it with the employee database. As a result, any inconsistencies or dormant accounts are promptly identified and flagged for immediate action.

The real value of automated solutions lies in their ability to save time and effort and their capacity to offer real-time visibility into account activity. This real-time insight empowers your teams to stay ahead of potential issues and take proactive measures to address them promptly. As soon as an orphaned account is detected, alerts are triggered, prompting swift action to revoke access and prevent any unauthorized usage.

4. Implementing role-based access control & least privilege principles

Role-based access control (RBAC) is a proven strategy that streamlines access management by assigning permissions based on job roles. Rather than granting blanket access, RBAC ensures that employees receive only the necessary privileges to fulfill their specific responsibilities. This approach aligns access rights with job functions, creating a clear and organized system for managing user permissions.

For example, in an organization, RBAC would grant marketing personnel access to marketing tools and data while restricting their access to financial systems. Conversely, finance personnel would have access to financial data and tools but not marketing resources. This role-centric approach limits the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access by reducing the exposure of sensitive information to only those who genuinely require it.

Complementing RBAC, the principle of least privilege further strengthens cybersecurity. It operates on the premise of granting the absolute minimum permissions necessary for users to perform their specific tasks effectively. This means that employees have access to only the essential resources and data, even within their designated roles, leaving out unnecessary privileges.

By adhering to the principle of least privilege, your teams can minimize the potential impact of security breaches, even if an account becomes orphaned or compromised. For instance, if an employee's account remains active after their departure, the limited access granted through RBAC and the principle of least privilege would restrict the potential damage that could be caused by unauthorized users attempting to exploit the account.

In larger organizations with a significant number of users, manual detection of orphaned accounts can be time-consuming and prone to errors. Automated solutions, integration with HR systems, access reviews, RBAC, and monitoring user activity are crucial to efficiently and effectively detect and manage orphaned accounts. 

These measures help maintain a secure and well-governed IT environment, minimizing the security and compliance risks associated with orphaned accounts. That’s where Zluri shines. 

Addressing Orphaned Account Challenges with Zluri's IGA Solution

Access management and permissions play a pivotal role in maintaining security and productivity. However, the complexity of managing user access often gives rise to orphaned accounts, which can pose significant risks to an organization's data security and hinder operational efficiency. Zluri's identity governance and administration (IGA) platform emerges as a dynamic solution that mitigates the challenges posed by orphaned accounts and streamlines access management to drive enhanced productivity.

Identifying orphaned accounts: Harnessing Zluri’s intelligent data discovery

The core of Zluri's value lies in its state-of-the-art data engine, which incorporates five powerful discovery methods. By leveraging these methods, your IT teams can seamlessly identify users with specific application access, thoroughly scrutinize permissions granted, and precisely locate critical users accessing the apps. The breadth and granularity of information provided by Zluri's data engine give an unparalleled view of your entire SaaS app ecosystem. Here's how it assists with orphaned accounts:

Zluri discovery engine

These five discovery methods encompass- 

  1. Single Sign-On: Zluri effortlessly captures and analyzes user access to various applications, streamlining the identification of orphaned accounts and potential security vulnerabilities.

  2. Identity Providers: By connecting with identity providers, Zluri gains valuable insights into user identities and their patterns of application usage. This helps in detecting any unauthorized or suspicious activity associated with orphaned accounts, providing IT teams with the ability to take appropriate action to secure the environment.

  3. Finance and Expense Management Systems: Zluri's integration with financial and expense management systems is particularly useful for discovering shadow IT, which refers to applications that are being used within the organization without proper authorization or oversight from IT. Identifying and managing such applications helps in controlling potential security vulnerabilities and data leaks.

  4. Direct App Integration: Zluri establishes direct integrations with various applications, allowing it to monitor user activities and detect any unusual behavior that might indicate unauthorized access or misuse of orphaned accounts. This proactive approach helps in maintaining a secure and efficient application environment.

  5. Optional Desktop Agents and Browser Extensions: For enhanced coverage, Zluri offers the flexibility of deploying desktop agents and browser extensions. This ensures that usage data for a wide range of applications is captured, minimizing the chances of overlooking any potential orphaned accounts or security gaps.

Moreover, Zluri's data engine significantly streamlines cumbersome manual app categorization and user access recording tasks. Through automation, it helps efficiently identify and classify managed, unmanaged, and shadow IT apps. This automation not only saves valuable time and resources but also allows your IT teams to focus on higher-value tasks critical to the organization's success.

Preventing orphaned accounts by streamlining IT operations through Zluri's cutting-edge automation engine

Zluri's automation engine eliminates the need for manual intervention in routine access management tasks. This allows your IT teams to focus on more strategic initiatives instead of spending time on repetitive tasks. By automating user provisioning, deprovisioning, and access adjustments, Zluri ensures that user accounts are created, updated, and removed accurately and promptly.

Zluri's sophisticated algorithms actively manage user access throughout their lifecycle within the organization. This means that as employees change roles, departments, or responsibilities, Zluri dynamically adjusts their permissions accordingly. This proactive approach prevents the accumulation of orphaned accounts, which often arise from neglected access controls and adjustments during role changes.

The benefits of Zluri's automation engine extend beyond security and efficiency. By effortlessly managing user access across all systems, applications, and platforms, Zluri enables your IT department to stay ahead in the dynamic landscape of modern technology. With rapid advances in cloud computing, mobility, the need for a robust and adaptive access management system has never been more critical.

In addition to mitigating the risks of orphaned accounts, Zluri's automation engine contributes to overall compliance adherence. As regulatory requirements evolve, staying compliant can be a complex and time-consuming task. However, Zluri's automation capabilities ensure that access privileges are consistently aligned with your organization's policies, providing peace of mind during audits and minimizing the potential for compliance-related setbacks.

Experience effortless user access provisioning with Zluri's streamlined onboarding solution

Zluri streamlines the onboarding process and empowers your IT team to efficiently handle orphaned accounts, enhancing security and productivity. At the core of Zluri's capabilities lies its ability to ensure that only authorized employees receive precise access levels to essential SaaS apps and data. This proactive measure mitigates the risks associated with human errors and over-provisioning, safeguarding against potential data breaches and unauthorized access attempts.

User lifecycle managment

Central to Zluri's mission is the empowerment of your IT team. Its intuitive interface enables your IT team to effortlessly create and customize onboarding workflows tailored to the unique job entitlements, roles, positions, and departments of each new employee. This level of customization ensures that new hires receive access to the specific tools and data necessary for their roles, eliminating any unnecessary exposure to sensitive information and bolstering overall security.

One of Zluri's remarkable features is its ability to grant secure access to multiple new hires simultaneously. By automating repetitive tasks and implementing streamlined workflows, Zluri significantly reduces the workload of IT personnel and accelerates the onboarding process. The result is a more efficient and secure experience for both the IT team and new employees.

Zluri further simplifies the access provisioning process through its user-friendly interface, allowing your IT teams to configure access privileges based on job roles and responsibilities with just a few clicks. This eliminates the need for complex workflow designs and substantially reduces the likelihood of errors during the onboarding process.

Access Provisioning

The transformative capabilities of Zluri directly translate into improved efficiency and enhanced employee productivity. By ensuring that the right users have access to the right resources, Zluri frees up valuable time and resources, enabling your employees to focus on their tasks without unnecessary distractions or delays caused by access issues.

Experience effortless user access deprovisioning with Zluri's streamlined offboarding solution

Employee offboarding can be a daunting and intricate process consuming valuable time and resources. However, Zluri presents a comprehensive and intelligent offboarding playbook that simplifies and streamlines the deprovisioning journey, making it highly efficient and seamless. With Zluri, your teams can save time, optimize workflows, and bolster data security.

One of the most valuable features of Zluri is its automatic access revocation. When an employee leaves the company, Zluri swiftly disables their access to all devices, applications, and systems. This instantaneous action mitigates the risk of data breaches and unauthorized access to sensitive information, ensuring that former employees cannot compromise company resources. The automation eliminates the need for manual intervention, enhancing security and minimizing potential security incidents caused by ex-employee access loopholes.

secure offboarding

Zluri's capabilities extend beyond access revocation, offering a secure data backup and transfer process during deprovisioning. Critical information is securely handed over to the appropriate personnel, guaranteeing a smooth transition even after an employee's departure. This safeguard ensures that no essential data is lost during the personnel change, providing you and your teams with added peace of mind.

Moreover, Zluri simplifies the revocation of employee licenses and single sign-on (SSO) access. By efficiently blocking access to an organization's applications, the platform prevents ex-employees from misusing company resources and further fortifies data security.

By embracing Zluri's straightforward approach to employee offboarding, your team can establish consistent and secure deprovisioning protocols for all departing employees. This heightened efficiency empowers HR and IT teams to manage departures confidently, reducing administrative burdens. As a result, you can shift their focus to core functions, knowing that data security remains intact during potentially sensitive personnel changes.

Empowering orphaned account control with Zluri's intelligent self-service solution 

Handling access permissions during employee transitions can present a myriad of challenges. Ensuring that newly assigned responsibilities receive appropriate access, while safeguarding sensitive data from unauthorized users, demands a seamless and efficient approach. Zluri, a pioneer in intelligent self-service solution, introduces the Employee App Store (EAS), revolutionizing access request management and enhancing security.

Employee App Store

The traditional manual permission management process is a thing of the past with Zluri's EAS. By leveraging the power of this cutting-edge platform, team members and approvers can now collaborate effectively in reviewing and approving access requests tailored to each employee's specific job roles. This granular approach ensures that employees have precisely the access level required to perform their duties effectively while mitigating any unnecessary exposure to sensitive information.

Zluri puts you firmly in control of access privileges, fostering a secure environment within your organizational boundaries. Leveraging state-of-the-art technology, you can effortlessly safeguard critical data, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and retaining complete control over the tools and resources available to employees.

Employee App Store

The EAS operates on a robust approval system with three distinct levels: app owners, reporting managers, and IT administrators. This multi-tiered approach enables higher authorities to make decisive decisions, overriding choices made by lower-level admins or managers when necessary.

Transparency and clarity are paramount in Zluri's access management process. Every approval or rejection of an access request is accompanied by comprehensive explanations and comments, fostering collaboration and understanding within the organization.

But the benefits of Zluri's intelligent solutions do not stop there. Approvers can modify specific access requests, tailoring permissions to the organization's unique requirements, and ensuring the right balance between accessibility and security.

To further enhance transparency, Zluri's IGA solutions offer a comprehensive "changelog" feature. This invaluable tool enables users to track updates, from approvals and rejections to changes in license duration or tier, providing a clear audit trail of access management activities.


The changelog feature captures insightful comments added by any admin, encouraging a collaborative and well-informed approach to access management. With Zluri's EAS, managing access requests becomes efficient, transparent, and secure, empowering your team to confidently navigate employee transitions with ease.

Targeting orphaned accounts with Zluri's access certifications

Gone are the days of manual and time-consuming efforts to sift through user lists, as Zluri's IGA solution autonomously detects orphaned accounts with precision and accuracy. By employing machine learning algorithms and advanced analytics, Zluri rapidly identifies accounts that no longer have a legitimate user association, effectively reducing the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

The efficiency gains achieved through Zluri's IGA solution are truly remarkable. Your teams can expect a significant reduction in the time and resources traditionally required for orphaned account management. The automation-driven approach enables admins to focus their efforts on higher-value tasks, strategic initiatives, and proactive security measures, elevating their contributions to the organization.

Furthermore, Zluri's IGA solution introduces a level of transparency that was previously unattainable in orphaned account management. Detailed audit trails and access records provide clear insights into the entire resolution process, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and facilitating smooth audits.

Beyond the immediate benefits, the long-term impact of Zluri's IGA solution on your organization's security posture cannot be overstated. By systematically addressing orphaned accounts, the risk surface is significantly reduced, fortifying your organization's defense against potential cyber threats.

In conclusion, Zluri's IGA solution offers a transformative and efficient approach to managing orphaned accounts. By harnessing the power of automation, intelligence, and transparency, Zluri empowers you to safeguard its critical assets, boost overall security, and allocate resources optimally. How, you ask?

Unified Access Management with Zluri's IGA Solution

Zluri's IGA solution is designed to provide your teams with a holistic view of their digital identities, offering a unified approach to access management. By consolidating and centralizing user access-related data from diverse sources, Zluri's IGA eliminates the complexity of managing orphaned accounts scattered across multiple directories or repositories.

  • The core of Zluri's IGA lies in its access directory, that captures and organizes user information with meticulous attention to detail. This ensures that all user identities and associated access privileges are accurately recorded and readily accessible for review. The result is a reliable and up-to-date understanding of user access within the organization, leaving no room for incomplete or inaccurate records.

  • Furthermore, Zluri's unified access approach empowers administrators with unparalleled visibility and control over user access privileges across the entire organization. Administrators can promptly identify potential access discrepancies or suspicious permissions by maintaining a clear view of access rights.¬†This heightened oversight serves as a robust defense against cyber threats, reducing the risk of unauthorized access and data breaches. Additionally, aligning access rights consistently ensures that users have appropriate access levels tailored to their respective roles, fostering both efficiency and security.

  • To proactively safeguard against security threats, Zluri's IGA employs a real-time activity tracking and alert system. This vigilant mechanism continuously monitors user activities and promptly flags any unusual or potentially malicious behavior. By acting as an early warning system, this feature enables admins to respond swiftly to potential security risks and implement necessary remediation measures.¬†

By staying one step ahead of potential threats, you can effectively mitigate the impact of security incidents and uphold the integrity of their digital identities.

Embracing Automation with Zluri's IGA Solution

With their inherent inefficiencies and security risks, traditional methods of handling orphaned accounts have long plagued organizations, impeding productivity and compromising data security. However, Zluri's IGA solution presents a groundbreaking approach by harnessing the power of cutting-edge automation to revolutionize access management. 

  • Zluri's IGA empowers your IT teams to exercise precise control over access rules and policies. Organizations can ensure that users possess appropriate access without unnecessary privileges by tailoring these rules to align with specific roles, responsibilities, and business requirements.¬†

    Automation takes center stage here, enabling to conduct instantaneous reviews and validations of user access against pre-defined criteria. Each time a user requests access or experiences a change in roles or responsibilities, the system automatically verifies if the access aligns with established policies. This eliminates ambiguity in the review process, ensuring access is granted solely to authorized personnel, thus minimizing the risk of unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

  • Further, Zluri's IGA introduces a forward-thinking scheduled certifications feature that automates system-generated access reviews at regular intervals. This proactive approach ensures that access rights remain up-to-date and align with evolving security policies and best practices.¬†

    Regular certifications help maintain a consistent and compliant access environment, reducing the potential for security gaps and minimizing the risk of lingering access privileges that should have been revoked due to changes in roles or responsibilities.

  • A standout feature of Zluri's IGA solution is its efficient automated remediation actions. In the face of security vulnerabilities or non-compliant access situations, it automatically triggers remediation actions without requiring manual intervention.¬†

    These actions may include access revocation, notifying users and their managers about access changes, or initiating access request workflows for approvals. By automating these responses to security threats, potential risks are mitigated promptly, and security incidents are addressed in real-time.

Here‚Äôs how to automate user access reviews. Zluri‚Äôs ‚ÄėAccess certification‚Äô module has got you covered:¬†

  • Step 1: To automate access reviews, access Zluri's main interface and navigate to the "Access certification" module. Within the module, select the option to create a ‚Äėnew certification.‚Äô

  • Step 2: Assign a name to the certification and designate an owner who will oversee the automated access reviews.

  • Step 3: Choose the preferred method of reviewing user access by exploring the options: Application, Users, and Groups.

  • Step 4: Opt for the "Application" review method if desired and add the relevant application(s) to be audited for users' access.¬†

    User Access review

  • Step 5: Select a primary reviewer and a fallback reviewer from the dropdown menu for the automated access reviews.

  • Step 6: Select the users to be included in the automated access reviews process and apply data filtering to refine the user selection based on certification requirements.

    User Access review

  • Step 7: Proceed to the next step and configure the actions to be performed during the automated access reviews, choosing from the provided dropdown list of actions.

Note: If there are multiple applications to be included in the same certification, repeat the process of adding applications as needed.

User Access review
  • Step 8: Specify the start and end dates for the automated access certification process, ensuring they align with recurring or scheduled certifications.

  • Step 9: Save the configuration as a template for future use by clicking on the "Save Template" option.

  • Step 10: Monitor the progress and updates of the automated access review process for the specific certification by regularly checking the "Review Stage" section.

Zluri's IGA solution emerges as a game-changer for your organization grappling with orphaned account management. By leveraging automation, the platform enables efficient access reviews, enhances security resilience, and alleviates administrative burdens. In today's digital landscape, where data breaches and security threats loom large, embracing Zluri's IGA becomes a pivotal step towards securing organizational assets and thriving amidst the challenges of tomorrow.

So what are you waiting for? Book a demo now. 


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Mastering SaaS Vendor Management: A Comprehensive Guide-2023

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In this post, you'll learn about shadow IT due to SaaS apps. You'll also learn the most common types of shadow apps categories, shadow IT risks, and shadow IT benefits.

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SaaS Sprawl - The Ultimate Guide

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SaaS Operations (SaaS Ops) - The Complete Guide

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