Last updated date : 13 Mar 2024

Application-to-application password management enables secure, encrypted password exchange between two applications or endpoints. APIs act as agents to facilitate communication between applications. As a result, applications do not need to be embedded with credentials. Instead, when they need to access a resource securely, the API carries the credentials required to authenticate the application-to-application communication. After the application is closed, the password expires, leaving no room for data leak.

Security risks posed by unmanaged application passwords

The risks of unmanaged application passwords can be pose a serious security threat and can have dire consequences on businesses. Here are some key risks associated with unmanaged application passwords:

  • 01

    Unauthorized access

    Unmanaged application passwords can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive information or systems. If passwords are not properly managed, they can be easily guessed, shared, or compromised, allowing unauthorized individuals to gain access to applications and systems.

  • 02

    Privilege escalation

    Unmanaged passwords can also lead to privilege escalation attacks. If an attacker gains access to an application with limited privileges but can exploit weak passwords or gain administrative access, they may be able to elevate their privileges and gain control over other systems or data within the organization.

  • 03

    Credential stuffing

    Unmanaged passwords are thrice as likely to be reused across multiple applications, services and processes. Attackers can take advantage of this by using automated tools to launch credential stuffing attacks. In such attacks, stolen usernames and passwords from one service are used to gain unauthorized access to other services, where users have used the same or similar credentials. This can lead to widespread account compromise and reputational damage.

  • 04

    Lack of accountability

    Without a password security hygiene, it becomes difficult to track and attribute privileged actions to specific individuals. In the event of a security incident or breach, it may be challenging to determine who was responsible, hindering investigation and remediation efforts.

How does application-to-application password management work?

Passwords are stored safely in password vaults, and applications need to fetch these credentials to establish communication with each other.To keep interactions between applications secure, an API acts as a mechanism to retrieve credentials and grants access to applications to get business-sensitive information.

For instance, say application A needs to communicate with application B to retrieve some information. The API in this case acts as an agent and fetches the credentials of application B from the password vault and shares them with application A. This keeps interactions between the applications secure. With this integration, applications are not limited to communicating with just users or admins. They can now interact with other applications and fetch data.

Benefits of application-to-application password management

Credentials used to access information between applications are often stored in scripts and unencrypted formats, which are largely unsafe. Hackers can gain control through these unhashed passwords and access sensitive information. Application-to-application password management provides a trusted mechanism to defend against these threats. Additionally, it also offers the following advantages:

  • Eliminates the need to store credentials in an unencrypted form inside an application
  • Uses APIs to manage and retrieve credentials safely, securing access to endpoint resources without embedding credentials inside applications
  • Provides a secure mechanism to authenticate access and password requests between applications
  • Dynamically changes the credentials of a privileged account, and ensures that servers are kept up to date by sending the credentials back to the requesting servers
  • Grants control and remote access to applications without exposing passwords in plain text format

Best practices for application-to-application password management

The following practices are recommended to manage interactions and access between applications:

01. Discover and identify key privileged credentials

  • Identify important credentials such as SSH keys, database accounts, shared administrators, service applications, and accounts.
  • The discovery also must include system platforms (Windows, Linux, Unix), hardware devices, firewalls, routers, and directories.
  • Once the credentials have been discovered, define the context of how and where the passwords are being used, and uncover any grey areas of security.

02. Integrate new systems and manage application passwords

  • Identify new systems and applications by performing periodic discoveries to make sure that all new resources and endpoints are secured and centralized.
  • Protect and manage application passwords by separating the password from the code. The password is then safely stored when not in use instead of being constantly exposed as plain text.
  • Implement and update SSH keys and passwords regularly, ensuring that each resource has a unique key pair.
  • Gain control over files, codes, and scripts when implementing APIs between applications, eliminating the need for hard-coded credentials. Once this is done, automate periodic password rotation by setting password policies.

03. Monitor orphan accounts and passwords on a periodic basis

It is imperative to keep tabs on passwords and privileged accounts periodically in order to fortify security against malware and outside threats. Important resources to monitor include:

  • Unmonitored orphan accounts that provide hackers an entry to the corporate network.
  • Passwords without an expiration date.
  • Reused SSH keys on multiple servers.
  • Misuse of privileged account passwords, such as using the same administrator account on multiple service accounts.

04. Perform a threat analysis

  • Continuously examine privileged account behavior and passwords to look out for threats and potential breaches in security.
  • Centralize the password management system to generate reports on privileged accounts, resources, keys, and system databases that can be exposed to data breaches.
  • Accelerate awareness and orchestrate immediate responses to unforeseen threats, such as suspending user access or blocking an account instantly.
Technical Support Request Demo