Service Accounts Redux - Collecting Service Accounts with PowerShell

Published: 2019-04-25
Last Updated: 2019-04-25 18:45:03 UTC
by Rob VandenBrink (Version: 1)
1 comment(s)

Back in 2015 I wrote up a "find the service accounts" story  - (yes, it really has been that long).  The approach I wrote up then used WMIC.  Those scripts saw a lot of use back in the day, but don't reflect the fastest or most efficient way to collect this information - I thought today was a good day to cover how to do this much quicker in PowerShell.

Why would you need to do this?  In a penetration test or an internal security assessment, you normally want to enumerate any services that don't use the built-in Microsoft Service Accounts.  This is because actual service accounts almost never see a password change, and almost always are given local administrator or domain administrator rights.  Mainly because if you're going to be a software vendor that's dumb enough to still use Windows XP era service accounts, you might as well go all the way and make those accounts Domain Admin for any malware that wants to collect those passwords (stay tuned, we'll be doing this tomorrow!).  Microsoft's current recommended approach is to use the various built-in service accounts for services.  These don't have passwords, and can't be used for lateral movement to other workstations or servers.

That being said, let's pretend to be malware and collect those service accounts across an AD domain!

$targets =get-adcomputer -filter * -Property DNSHostName
$vallist = @()
$i = 1
$count = $targets.count

foreach ($targethost in $targets) {
  write-host $i of $count -  $targethost.DNSHostName
  if (Test-Connection -ComputerName $targethost.DNSHostName -count 2 -Quiet) {
    $vallist += Get-WmiObject Win32_service -Computer $targethost.DNSHostName | select-object systemname, displayname, startname, state
$vallist | export-csv all-services.csv

A few things to discuss.
First of all, $i, $count, and the "write-host" line are there just so that if you have several thousand hosts to enumerate, you can ensure that your script isn't hung, and how far along it might be at any given time.

The "Test-connection" check is there so that you don't wait several seconds trying to connect up to remote hosts that might not be up.

Also, this can only enumerate hosts that are actually up and accept a connection - you likely want to run this script during the day.  If you start your script and see that it's going to take longer than a business day to complete (for a larger domain for instance), you might want to pause it towards the end of the business day, and restart it the next morning after everyone is back at their desks.

OK - so now that the script has run, what have we found?  What we have is the list of **all** services that are installed on all hosts in the domain, along with the account that's used to start the service.

This is great for system admins looking for one thing or another, but for most security purposes you don't want the ones that are using the built-in service accounts.  To filter those out, you want to remove any service that is started by these accounts:

  • NT AUTHORITY\LocalService
  • LocalSystem
  • NT AUTHORITY\NetworkService
  • or an empty field

To do this, add these lines to the bottom of your script

$filtlist = @("LocalService", "LocalSystem", "NetworkService", "NT AUTHORITY\LocalService", "NT AUTHORITY\NetworkService", "NT AUTHORITY\NETWORK SERVICE", "NT AUTHORITY\LOCAL SERVICE")
$TargetServices = $vallist | Where-Object { $filtlist -notcontains $_.startname }

$TargetServices | export-csv bad-services.csv

Things to note in this bit of code?  the "contains" and "notcontains" operators are case-insensitive, so you upper / lower case doesn't matter in your filter.

So, what can we do with this list if we're attacking a domain?  We can use the domain admin and local admin lists that we sleuthed yesterday, and see which of these service passwords are domain admins!

Let's take that list of $TargetServices, and list the offending accounts:

$TargetSVCAccounts = $TargetServices.startname | Sort-Object -Unique


In a different domain it's common to also see service accounts that are local to the machine being enumerated, often those will have local admin rights, and often you'll find that those same (local admin) service userid and password are used on all workstations and often on all servers - which gets you almost the same access as domain admin rights (oops).

Normally the lists that come out of these scripts are short enough that I can compare them by eye to the list of local and domain admins we collected in yesterday's story.  But if you have one of those unfortunate domains where dozens or hundreds of people have domain or local admin rights, you might want to add a bit more code:

$SVCDomAdmins = @()
$Admins = $DomainAdmins.SAMAccountName.toupper()

Foreach ($Acct in $TargetSVCAccounts) {
    $a = $Acct.toUpper().Trim("AD\").Trim("@AD.COM")
    if ($Admins.Contains($a)) {$SVCDomAdmins += $a}

$SVCDomAdmins | Sort-Object -Unique | export-csv Service-DomainAdmins.csv

To find Service Accounts that are local admins, it's the exact same code, but replace line 2 with "$Admins += $localadmins.AdminID.toupper()"

If you have a minute today, try this on your domain - use our comment form to let us know if you find anything interesting!

What will we do with this list of accounts next?  Stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow :-)


Rob VandenBrink

1 comment(s)


In your script, if you have powershell 3+, you can use the $i and $count variables to write a fancy progress bar using the write-progress cmdlet.

I would replace the write-host with something like

Write-Progress -Activity "Enumerating hosts" -Status "$($targethost.DNSHostName) [$($i)/$($count)]" -PercentComplete ($i/$count*100)

You can even estimate the time to completion and display that using the -SecondsRemaining parameter.

Diary Archives