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What is Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM)?

by | Mar 5, 2021 | BLOG

Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM) eliminates the need to store credentials in application source codes, scripts, and configuration files.

In this way, passwords are managed by the AAPM solution and become unknown to developers and support staff.

Also, an AAPM solution allows applications and scripts to securely obtain access credentials to other applications, eliminating the need for third-party applications and scripts to store access credentials.

The credentials stored in the solution are always encrypted and access is controlled and configurable, making it possible to change credentials at any time.

Keep reading this article and learn more about other benefits and best practices of an AAPM solution.

What is Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM)?

The authentication process is not just for administrator users to log on interactively to computers, network equipment, and applications. Software-based applications and services must also prove their identity to other services before being granted access.

Storing credentials and passwords in plain text within the code carries significant risk. This practice is known ashard-coding and has the risk associated with the possibility that malicious people can quickly discover these credentials, increasing the possibility of privilege abuse in the systems. 

Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM) eliminates the need to store credentials in an unencrypted text in the application.

Instead, developers introduce API calls into its code to programmatically access the credential and perform password operations. The password can be stored in the application’s memory and not written to the disk.

After the application is closed, the memory is deallocated and the password expires, leaving no room for malicious actions. Using this approach, AAPM protects credentials and controls access to them.

Benefits of Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM)

Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM) offers the following advantages:

  • It stores encrypted credentials in a tamper-resistant location. Credentials are not stored in plain text.
  • It prevents unauthorized users from gaining access to credentials.
  • Based on the configured password policies, AAPM dynamically changes the credentials of a target account. These changes are sent to the requesting servers to keep the local cache up to date.
  • Reliable authentication of all password requests made by applications.
  • Use of the solution’s connection API to manage application credentials.
  • Granular access control, providing remote access to a specific service or application without displaying the password to the requesting user.

The solution uses its own template for changing the password of the application credentials and stores the new encrypted password in its database. The credential can be viewed directly by the solution’s connection API or inserted directly into the application server connection pool.

Best Practices for Application-to-Application Password Management (AAPM)

For the holistic management of privileged credentials between applications, the following practices are recommended.

  • Discover all privileged credentials, such as shared administrator, user, service application and accounts, SSH keys, database accounts, cloud, and social media accounts. It includes those used by third parties and suppliers, in their on-premises and cloud infrastructure.
  • The discovery should include all platforms (Windows, Unix, Linux, cloud, local, and more), directory, hardware device, application, services, firewalls, routers.
  • The discovery should clarify where and how privileged passwords are being used, and help reveal blind spots of security and neglect, such as:

Long-forgotten orphan accounts that could provide an attacker with a back door to your infrastructure.

Passwords with no expiration date.

Inappropriate use of privileged passwords, such as using the same administrator account on multiple service accounts.

SSH keys reused on multiple servers.

  • New systems and applications are being developed all the time, so make periodic discoveries to ensure that all privileged credentials are protected, centralized, under management.
  • Manage application passwords. Protecting hardcoded passwords requires separating the password from the code so that when not in use, it is securely stored in a centralized password vault, instead of being constantly exposed as in plain text.
  • When implementing API calls, you can gain control over scripts, files, code, and hardcoded keys, eliminating hard-coding credentials. After doing this, you can automate your password updates as often as the policy requires.
  • Bring SSH keys for management. SSH keys are like just another password, although followed by a key pair that must also be managed. Update private keys and passwords regularly and ensure that each system has a unique key pair.
  • Threat analysis. Continuously analyze password, user, and privileged account behavior to detect anomalies and potential threats. The more integrated and centralized password management is, the more easily you can generate reports on accounts, keys, and systems exposed to risks. A higher degree of automation can accelerate your awareness and orchestrate a response to threats, such as allowing you to immediately block an account or session or change a password.

Many government and market regulations (PCI DSS, for example) state that confidential information should not be hardcoded. Eliminating hardcoded passwords and ensuring that application credentials undergo periodic password resets help organizations meet auditing and compliance requirements.

Do you want more information on how to optimize communication between applications? Contact our experts or click here.

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