How to Find Service Accounts in Active Directory: A Comprehensive Guide

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Service accounts are a critical component of any enterprise environment, used to perform a variety of automated processes. However, these accounts can pose a significant security risk if not properly managed and monitored. In this article, we will explore how to find service accounts in Active Directory (AD) and discuss how Silverfort’s solutions can help enhance your security posture.

Understanding Service Accounts

Service accounts are special types of accounts in Active Directory that provide a security context for services running on a server. These accounts have unique permissions and privileges that allow them to perform specific tasks. However, due to their elevated access privileges, they can become prime targets for attackers if left unmonitored or unprotected.

Service accounts are typically used to run scripts, manage applications, or perform other automated functions.

Unlike regular user accounts, service accounts are not associated with any specific individual but rather serve as a means for services and applications to interact with the network. They are designed to operate in the background without requiring human intervention.

Because service accounts have elevated access privileges, this makes them prime targets for attackers. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that service accounts are adequately protected and their activities are closely monitored to prevent any potential security breaches.

Finding Service Accounts in Active Directory

Finding service accounts in Active Directory can be a complex task due to the vast number of accounts and the intricate nature of AD structures. However, it is an essential step in ensuring the security of your network. 

To find service accounts in Active Directory, follow these steps:

  1. Review the documentation: Start by reviewing any existing documentation or inventory lists that may contain information about service accounts. This could include names, descriptions, and associated applications or scripts.
  2. Use Active Directory tools: Utilize the built-in Active Directory tools to search for service accounts. One commonly used tool is the Active Directory Users and Computers (ADUC) console. Open ADUC, navigate to your domain, and use the search feature to filter for accounts with specific attributes commonly associated with service accounts, such as “ServiceAccount” in the description field.
  3. Check for special account flags: Service accounts often have special account flags set to indicate their purpose. These flags can include “DONT_EXPIRE_PASSWORD” or “PASSWORD_NOT_REQUIRED.” You can use PowerShell commands or LDAP queries to search for accounts with these flags.
  4. Examine group membership: Service accounts are frequently members of specific security groups that grant them the necessary permissions to perform their tasks. Review the membership of groups like “Domain Admins,” “Enterprise Admins,” or other groups that are known to have elevated privileges.
  5. Monitor application dependencies: Identify applications or services that rely on service accounts to function properly.Consult with application owners or system administrators to gather information about the associated service accounts.
  6. Audit event logs: Regularly monitor event logs on domain controllers and other critical servers for events related to service accounts. Look for logon events, password changes, or other activities that may indicate the usage of a service account.

Remember, in addition to taking inventories of service accounts, it’s crucial to regularly review and update their permissions, enforce strong password policies, and monitor their activities to ensure the security of your Active Directory environment. By taking these steps, you can mitigate the risks associated with service accounts and strengthen your overall security posture.

Silverfort’s Solution: Automated Discovery and Monitoring

Silverfort offers an automated solution for discovering and monitoring service accounts within your environment. Through its native integration with Active Directory, Silverfort can analyze every access attempt, regardless of the authentication protocol used. This means that Silverfort can automatically identify any account that features predictable and repetitive behavior, classify them as a service account, and protect them with access policies.

As a result, any deviation from the standard activity of a service account can trigger an action such as blocking access to the targeted resource, adding an extra layer of protection. This type of “virtual fencing” means that service accounts can now be fully protected from misuse by threat actors.


In today’s complex cybersecurity landscape, managing and protecting service accounts in Active Directory is crucial. Silverfort’s automated discovery, activity monitoring, and access policy creation for all service accounts within the environment provides a comprehensive solution so organizations can be confident that their service accounts are secure, reducing the risk of breaches and enhancing overall network security.

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