What Are Service Accounts: Your Ultimate Guide for 2023


From granting permissions to safeguarding your SaaS application data, explore the hidden world of service accounts and understand how they shape your organization's digital landscape. 

Have you ever wondered how digital systems manage their behind-the-scenes operations? Well, it's with none other than service accounts. They work behind the scenes to enable seamless interactions between applications and systems.

They hold the keys to granting permissions, safeguarding sensitive data, and automating critical tasks, ensuring the smooth functioning of operations. Let's understand in detail what exactly is a service account. 

What Is A Service Account?

A service account is nothing but a non-human privileged account used by an operating system to run SaaS applications, virtual machine instances, automated services, and other background processes. 

For instance, just like human users, computers also require access to apps, databases, networks, files, and other resources. So a service account gives a way to grant identity and permissions to a computer program or process that performs a particular task. Also, they have privileges that allow extensive access to system resources across a domain or locally. 

Furthermore, service accounts can be classified into different types, each with its own specific functions and roles. So let's explore its types in detail.

Types of Service Accounts 

Service accounts go by different names depending on the systems they are used in. Let's explore a few examples of service account types found in Unix, Linux, Windows, and the cloud.

  • Service accounts in Unix and Linux

In Unix and Linux systems, service accounts are commonly referred to as "init" or "inetd" accounts. These accounts are special types of privileged accounts that operate as non-human entities. They have the capability to execute applications, run automated services, manage virtual machine instances, and perform various other processes.

  • Service accounts in the cloud

Cloud service accounts are also referred to as cloud compute service accounts or virtual service accounts. These accounts are designed to be utilized by applications or compute workloads rather than by individual users.

  • Service accounts in Windows

According to Microsoft's definition, a service account is a user account specifically created to provide a security context for services running on Windows Server operating systems. The security context plays a crucial role in determining the service's ability to access both local and network resources. Also, these service accounts are frequently associated with mission-critical applications that require elevated privileges.

The most common types of service accounts in Windows are as follows:

  • LocalSystem

  • Local user account

  • NetworkService¬†

  • Domain user account¬†

Why Are Service Accounts Important?

Service accounts are essential for supporting critical business programs and processes. They are particularly valuable for executing persistent programs that require continuous operation, such as websites and databases.

Additionally, service accounts can act as proxies, performing tasks on behalf of users. This role helps safeguard sensitive data and system resources by preventing users without direct access from accessing them.

Service accounts offer significant access capabilities by possessing extensive privileges and requiring widespread knowledge of their credentials. They must be recognized and authenticated by the main application and all associated programs that interact with it. These distinctive characteristics make service accounts highly attractive targets for hackers.

Let's read further to learn more about why it is important to manage service accounts effectively.

Why Is It Crucial To Effectively Manage Service Accounts? 

Service accounts pose a significant security challenge, allowing attackers to operate undetected within legitimate programs with continuous access. Furthermore, the lack of human ownership makes managing these accounts difficult, and inadequate monitoring of privileged accounts increases the risk. 

Also, insufficient adoption of multi-factor authentication and poor password further adds to the security challenge. Neglecting these security issues can lead to data breaches and disruptions. Negligence in changing default passwords and sharing privileged account passwords adds to the vulnerability. 

Organizations must prioritize service account management to address these challenges, including monitoring, multi-factor authentication, strong password policies, and access control reviews.

So, let's move forward and learn how to effectively manage service accounts in brief. 

Best Practices To Streamline Service Accounts Management 

IT teams that struggle with managing service accounts face unnecessary risks and chaos. However, there is good news. By implementing service account governance and using modern tools, your IT team can gain better control over privileged access and enhance overall security.

Here are five best practices for managing service accounts:

  • Define and categorize service accounts based on their risk and importance to business operations. Identify critical accounts for priority recovery during security incidents. This reduces downtime and minimizes disruption.

  • Conduct an inventory of service accounts using a privileged access management (PAM) solution. Remove any unnecessary accounts and continuously monitor any suspicious activity that may take place.

  • Establish governance policies for provisioning and de-provisioning service accounts. Enforce policies, review usage, and assign ownership to responsible employees.

  • Ensure secure access by using an automated access management tool to store credentials centrally. Implement the principle of least privilege (PoLP) to restrict account permissions to the minimum required. Also, enforce strong password management policies and regularly change or rotate passwords.

  • Monitor and audit service account activity using tools that provide real-time visibility and alert your IT team with abnormal behavior, helping them quickly identify and respond to potential threats.

    By following these best practices, your IT can strengthen your service account security and minimize the risks of any potential security breach.

    However, you need to opt for an efficient management platform to help your IT team manage the entire process. Though multiple platforms are available in the market, the one that stands out is Zluri. Here's a quick brief on why Zluri is the ultimate solution for your IT team to streamline the management of service accounts. 

How Zluri Enables Your IT Team To Seamlessly Manage User Access?

Due to rapid SaaS adoption and the increasing trend of decentralized work, IT teams struggle to manage and review user access manually. They cannot keep a tab on which service accounts are accessing all SaaS apps, data, or systems, creating a gap through which unauthorized users get the opportunity to breach in. This further compromises the security of data stored in SaaS apps and systems. 

Fortunately, there's a solution that can address these pressing concerns, which is Zluri's Identity Governance and Administration (IGA) platform. It enables your IT team to seamlessly manage service accounts and access by ensuring complete visibility into their SaaS landscape. Further, by gaining the required insights it becomes easier for your IT team to review access to ensure that account permissions align with the assigned role throughout its lifecycle. 

Also, it prioritizes data security and compliance, which are crucial concerns for most organizations. 

You must be wondering how does Zluri makes it all possible? Well, Zluri offers your team with exclusive capabilities such as access certification, data engine, automation engine, and more that set it apart from the rest of the competitors. To help you understand better, let's learn about its key features one by one that helps your IT team to effectively manage service accounts, access privileges, governance, and more. 

  • Zluri's discovery engine unveils all service accounts within your organization¬†

Zluri helps your IT team analyze and discover all the service accounts seamlessly with its 5 discovery methods, i.e., single sign-on and identity providers, finance and expense management systems, direct integration with apps, desktop agents (optional), and browser extensions (optional). With the help of these methods your team can easily identify which accounts have access to organizational resources, what level of permission is granted to them, whether the account is active or not, and more. 

zluri discovery method

Further, it helps your IT team recognize the most alarming aspects and produce a personalized report highlighting the risks. This report can be downloaded and shared by your IT team to take proactive measures and enhance the security of your service accounts. It serves as an excellent initial step towards uncovering and safeguarding your service accounts.

Furthermore, it automates the identification of unmanaged and unfamiliar accounts. This automation alleviates the manual workload of documenting, categorizing, and cataloging service accounts, leading to substantial time and resource savings.

In addition, Zluri provides your IT team with complete visibility into employee access, including those who serve as owners of service accounts, and effectively manages those accounts. Through Zluri, your IT team can simplify access management, ensuring that the right employees have the appropriate permissions for service accounts. By offering a comprehensive solution for both service account management and employee access control, Zluri empowers your IT team to uphold a solid and secure environment.

How does it make it all possible? It offers advanced capabilities such as user lifecycle management, access request management, access certification, and more. Let’s learn more about it in detail. 

  • Zluri‚Äôs Automation Engine- Streamline Provisioning & Deprovisioning Through Automation¬†

No more doing things manually or using paperwork. Zluri makes things automatic, saving your IT team time and effort. With Zluri, your team can ensure the right level of access is granted to employees and revoke access when necessary. 

How does Zluri make it possible? Your team can create and customize onboarding and offboarding workflows to automate the provisioning and deprovisioning process. By creating these workflows they can quickly grant new employees access to apps and data based on their role, position, and department. And when the employee's tenure comes to an end, their access can be revoked with just a few clicks. 

By automating these processes, your IT team can increase their efficiency and productivity, and maintain data security by ensuring access permissions align with employee’s roles and responsibilities. 

So now the ultimate question is how to create these workflows.

Your IT team can easily create an onboarding workflow by following the given below steps:

  • Step 1: From Zluri's main interface, click on the workflow module and select the onboarding option from the drop-down list. Proceed by clicking on New Workflow.

workflow onboarding 1
  • Step 2:¬† Select the user for the onboarding box will appear; from there, select the employee(s) whom you want to onboard. Also, you can search for a particular employee in the search bar. Once done selecting the employee, click on continue.¬†

    select users for onboarding

    Note: you can even select multiple employees; this helps onboard multiple new employees in one go

  • Step 3: With its intelligent feature, Zluri would suggest some apps under recommended apps based on the employee's department, role, and seniority. Choose any of those, then execute the required action for the selected applications.

recommended apps workflow
  • Step 4: To execute certain actions, you need to Click on Edit Task and enter the required details. Your team can schedule the actions to execute the workflow on the day of onboarding. In order to save the actions, click on Save Task, and the actions will automatically be saved.

    Save Task

    Also, your team can add your employees to channels or send an automated welcome greeting using Zluri's in-app suggestions. The actions can vary for different applications and are mentioned under recommended actions. 

recommended actions
  • Step 5:¬† Finally, click on Save as Playbook to save the workflow. Then, you'll get a dialogue box with instructions to name the playbook. Add a name, proceed further by clicking on Save Playbook, and the onboarding workflow is ready.

save playbook

Now let’s see the steps to create an offboarding workflow:

  • Step 1: From Zluri's main interface, click on the workflow module and select the offboarding option from the drop-down list. Proceed by clicking on New Workflow.

  • Step 2: A popup labeled 'Select the user for offboarding' will appear. Select the employee(s) you want to offboard, or you can look for them in the 'search box. Click on continue after selecting the employee.

  • Step 3: Your team will be able to view all the applications your employee can access. Now when you click on the app, Zluri will display some suggested actions under recommended actions. Select any of those or multiple actions, and then execute the required action for your chosen applications.¬†

Step 3 offboarding
  • Step 4: To add other actions, click Add an Action, fill in the required details, and proceed by clicking on Save Task; the actions will be saved.¬†

Step 4 Offboarding
  • Step 5: Save the workflow by clicking Save as Playbook. A dialogue box will appear, instructing to name the playbook.¬†

Step 5 offboarding-1

Add a name, click Save Playbook, and the offboarding workflow is ready. 

Step 5 offboarding-2
  • Automation Playbook

Zluri's automation playbook enables your team to automate repetitive and manual tasks, saving time and reducing errors. 

Moreover, the automation playbook gives your team the flexibility to create and customize workflows and set actions based on specific triggers and conditions. By establishing rules and actions within the automation playbook, they can automate essential access management tasks such as provisioning, deprovisioning, access reviews, and entitlement management.

Through this feature your team can seamlessly, expedite user provisioning and deprovisioning processes, ensuring timely and accurate access granting and revoking.

Automation playbook
  • Entitlement Management¬†

Zluri's entitlement management feature enables your IT team to automatically assign role-based access to applications when a new employee joins the company. Previously, IT teams used to manually review each employee and verify each individual's identity, and then assign access permissions based on their designated role and responsibilities. However, this manual approach can be highly prone to errors and time-consuming.

So what Zluri does is it simplifies this entitlement management process by integrating new employee data with their digital identity. This integration allows Zluri's system to efficiently verify the employee's identity and automatically assign role-based access to the required SaaS app and data, with the right level of permissions. By doing so, Zluri prevents excessive access or over-provisioning, ensuring that employees have the appropriate level of access required for their roles without unnecessary permissions.

  • Request Access Without Any Hassle¬†

Zluri’s ticketless workflow makes it easy for employees to request access to SaaS applications when there is change in their role, get promoted, to complete certain projects, or for other reasons. Instead of waiting for days to get access approval, they can use Zluri’s Employee App Store (EAS), a self-serve model, which is a collection of pre-approved SaaS applications. This self-serve model gives your employee the flexibility to choose any app from the collection and gain access to it within no time. 

All they need to do is submit an access request and the IT admin gets notified on the same and quickly verifies their identity. With just a few clicks, the admin grants secure access, eliminating delays and back-and-forth emails. 

Now let’s see how your employees can raise an access request in EAS: 

  • Step 1: Your employees will receive an icon on the Zluri main interface's upper right corner; click on that, and a drop-down menu will appear; from there, click Switch to Employee View.¬†

access request step 1
  • Step 2: Overview dashboard will appear by default; now click on 'Request Access to an Application¬†

access request step 2
  • Step 3: Your employees will see a dialogue box where they need to enter the application name they require access to. Then, click on Continue.¬†

access request step 3
  • Step 4: Some applications will not be used in the organization. However, your employees can still request that application. Click on continue, and another dialogue box will appear, showing similar applications that are being used in the organization.¬†

access request step 4
  • If your employees want to opt for a similar application, they can simply click on the application or click on Ignore and Continue to proceed forward with your request.¬†

access request step 4-2
  • Step 5: Further, they have to fill in the required details like selecting the license plan, subscription duration, and description of why they need the application and attach supporting documents. Once filled, click on Confirm request.¬†

access request step 5

Note: Additionally, if the request has been modified in any way or if one of the approvers suggests any substitutes for the application, your employee can check it in the "Changelogs." 

access request completion

And that's it. The app access request has been submitted. 

  • ITSM Integration

But you might be wondering how your team can stay informed about changes in employee roles. To stay updated on employee changes, Zluri integrates with the HR system, automatically retrieving and displaying the latest employee data on its centralized dashboard. This helps your IT team manage user permissions efficiently based on current roles and responsibilities. Whether granting or removing access, your team can efficiently manage user privileges based on the most up-to-date information available.

ITSM Integration

Now how to monitor these access management processes effectively? Zluri has a solution for that as well. With Zluri, your IT team can easily monitor which employees have access to different apps, what level of permission they have, and if any access has been taken away. All this information is available in one easy-to-use dashboard.

Moreover, Zluri helps your IT team spot any suspicious behavior from users. It can detect when someone tries to access something they shouldn't or if they're doing something unusual. When this happens, Zluri sends an alert to your IT team so they can take quick action to prevent any security risks.

By being able to quickly identify and respond to these incidents, your team can improve the overall security of your organization. It helps protect important data in your apps from being breached or compromised.

  • Be Audit Ready By Streamlining Access Certification

Data security, and compliance is crucial for every organization, and Zluri understands that. That's why Zluri makes it easier to ensure everyone has the right access. It conducts periodic reviews to ensure access rights align with employees' roles and responsibilities, and to any unauthorized access by examining the access patterns and user behavior. Also, it ensures you meet all the compliance requirements and be ready for upcoming audits. 

Let's say the IT team gave the sales team access to Procol to complete a project within 6 months. But the sales team finished the project in just 3 months. In such cases, the manager or designated reviewers can check the access and revoke it if needed. Or, Zluri’s auto-remediation feature automatically revokes the access after the completion of the 6 months, with or without a reviewer intervention.

This example was just a hint of how Zluri streamlines access review, however, there is more to it. Zluri offers a wide range of capabilities that simplifies and automates the user access review process, making it 10x faster and minimizing your IT efforts by 70%. Let's look at its key capabilities.  

access reviews

Zluri’s access review capabilities are categorized under three categories which are:

  • Zluri‚Äôs Automated Access Review Capabilities ¬†

  • Review Automation

Zluri enables your IT team to automate the entire access review process effectively and efficiently. By automating the evaluation of user access, your IT team can seamlessly eliminate the need for manual review tasks, streamlining the process and ensuring efficient access management.

  • Auto Remediation

Zluri simplifies access remediation by automatically revoking access when predefined conditions are met. For instance, if user accounts expire or policy violations occur, Zluri enables your IT team to take immediate action and revoke access accordingly.

Additionally, Zluri addresses situations where employees possess excessive access permissions. For example, an employee with administrative-level access to an application may not require such privileges based on their job role. In such cases, Zluri intervenes and automatically adjusts the access permissions to align precisely with their job requirements, downgrading them to user-level access.

By automating access adjustments, Zluri minimizes the risk of unauthorized access, bolstering your organization's overall security posture and ensuring compliance with access policies. This proactive approach to access remediation ensures a more secure and efficient access management process.

  • Auto-Generated Reports

With this capability, your team no longer needs to manually generate reports. Zluri collects app access data and effortlessly generates reports, providing your team with essential insights such as access patterns, inactive users, login/logout attempts, and unauthorized access attempts.

The benefit doesn't end there; Zluri ensures your IT team always stays up-to-date with access insights and analytics. By delivering reports directly to your inbox, Zluri keeps your team informed and enables seamless tracking of access review outcomes. This saves time and enhances efficiency, allowing your team to focus on more critical tasks while staying well-informed about access patterns and potential security concerns.

  • Zluri‚Äôs Agile Access Review Capabilities¬†

  • Recurring Certification

Through automated scheduling, your IT team can set up regular access reviews (after every 3-6 months). This ensures that access permissions are continuously assessed and aligned with users' roles and responsibilities and standard access policies. 

  • Certification Templates

Zluri provides pre-built certification templates that simplify the review process across. Your IT team can also customize the templates to align with specific requirements.

  • Zluri‚Äôs Standard Access Review Capabilities¬†

  • Anomaly Detection

Zluri employs cutting-edge AI-driven anomaly detection to uncover risky access patterns and potential misconfigurations that human reviewers might overlook. A thorough analysis of access data and user behavior empowers your IT team to spot anomalies that could signify security threats or compliance concerns.

By proactively identifying these issues, Zluri strengthens your system's security and enables your team to swiftly take action to address and minimize potential risks. This proactive approach ensures a safer and more secure environment for your organization's data and applications.

  • Continuous Reviews

Zluri ensures that access permissions are regularly assessed through continuous reviews. This ongoing process guarantees access remains up-to-date and aligned with access transitions/modifications. By continuously monitoring access and making adjustments as necessary, your IT team can maintain a secure and compliant access environment.

  • AI Compliance

Zluri provides real-time notifications, informing your team of compliance-related activities and changes. By adhering to regulatory standards and automating compliance checks, Zluri helps you meet all the compliance requirements and simplifies audit processes.

Now let’s see how your IT team can automate the access review process with Zluri.

Steps To Automate Access Certification In Zluri

Your IT team/GRC team needs to follow the given below steps to automate the access certification process:

Step 1: From Zluri‚Äôs main interface, click on the ‚ÄėAccess Certification‚Äô module.

Step 2: Now select the option ‚Äėcreate new certification.‚Äô You have to assign a certification name and designate a responsive owner to oversee the review.¬†

Step 3: Under Set Up Certification, choose the¬† ‚ÄėApplication‚Äô option. Proceed further by selecting the desired application for which you want to conduct the review and choose a reviewer (generally the primary reviewers are the app owners) accountable for reviewing access to that particular application.¬†

After that you need to select the fallback owner/reviewer, if the primary reviewer is unavailable the fallback owner can review the user access (you can select anyone for the fallback reviewer, whom you think is responsible enough). Also, the reviewers will get notified through the mail that they will conduct a review. 

Once you are done selecting the reviewers, you can click on Next. 

access certification

Step 4: Select Users for Review, choose the users whom you want to review for the selected application. Once you are done selecting the users click on next. You will be able to view all the information related to the users. Then you need to specify the criteria or parameters such as user department, job title, usage, and more. Now click on update and then click on next.

Note: Select those relevant data points only that you wish your reviewers to see while reviewing the access. By filtering the criteria appropriately, you enable your reviewers to make swift and well-informed decisions, streamlining the review process and ensuring efficiency.

slack access certification
slack access certification-2

Step 5: Now the Configure Action page will appear, basically, here you have to choose actions. These actions will run post the review. 

There are three actions:

Approved- once reviewers approve the user access, Zluri won't run any action, the users can continue with their same access without any interruption.

Rejected- when the reviewer declines or doesn’t approve the user access, you have to run a deprovisioning playbook to revoke the access of that application from the user. If the user has access to critical apps then you can request the assigned reviewer to manually deprovision the user access or else Zluri will auto-remediate if it’s not critical access. 

Modify- In this last case; you again need to create a playbook to modify the user access. However, you need to state whether the access permission needs to be upgraded or degraded. 

Step 6: Additionally, you can even schedule the actions by setting up the start date and within what time span you want the review to be completed.

access certification step 6

Step 7: Lastly you can keep track of the automated access review process by clicking on the ‚ÄėReview Status‚Äô and view whether the review is still pending, modified, declined, or approved.

Also, you can add multiple applications and follow the same process for each selected application.

Zluri also provides the owner access to a snapshot view of the entire certification process status. Also, they can get an overview of the pending reviews and monitor the status of each app’s review, including their assigned reviewers and their completion status.

You can even send reviewers reminders who are yet to complete their reviews.   

Further to streamline the process for reviewers, Zluri provides reviewers with all the user access data in a single screen, i.e. reviewer screen. For the same screen, reviewers can approve, modify, and decline access by verifying the data, and also they have to add relevant comments on the same.

Now, you will be able to view the entire status of the review process on the chart, and once the process is completed and the owner (assigned reviewer of the certification process) is fine with the review. You can click on conclude, and it will straigh away send the reports to the reviewers' email. 

So, don't wait any longer! Book a demo now and see for yourself how Zluri can help your IT team effortlessly manage access. 


Mastering SaaS Vendor Management: A Comprehensive Guide-2023

Shadow IT in the SaaS World - A Complete Guide

Introducing Zluri's Modern Identity Governance & Administration platform for the cloud-forward world

SaaS Sprawl - The Ultimate Guide

SaaS Operations (SaaS Ops) - The Complete Guide


Mastering SaaS Vendor Management: A Comprehensive Guide-2023

An obese SaaS stack leads to SaaS wastage. It's a disease! It not only causes financial issues but also gives you security and compliance problems. That's why you must keep tight control on your SaaS stack. And it begins with managing your SaaS vendors. 

Shadow IT in the SaaS World - A Complete Guide

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.

Introducing Zluri's Modern Identity Governance & Administration platform for the cloud-forward world

Zluri's Modern IGA solution helps companies mitigate security and compliance risks. Govern access to your SaaS for the entire user lifecycle through user provisioning, automated access reviews, and self-service access requests.

SaaS Sprawl - The Ultimate Guide

When an organization has a large number of SaaS applications in its SaaS stack, it gives rise to SaaS Sprawl.

SaaS Operations (SaaS Ops) - The Complete Guide

SaaS operations consist of procuring the right set of SaaS apps, managing access to these apps by users/departments, monitoring their usage, and offboarding them properly when they are no longer needed.

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