Service Accounts

Last modified on March 24, 2023

Service accounts allow for programmatic access to StrongDM resources. This is useful for continuous-integration pipelines, extract-transform-load jobs, or any automated function that would need resource access. Check the Admin UI Guide to see how to create service accounts. The rest of this guide covers how to authenticate with a service account on macOS, Linux, and Windows.

Service Accounts on macOS and Linux

Use the CLI

Pass the service account token to the CLI login command.

sdm login --admin-token='<SERVICE_ACCOUNT_TOKEN>'

Use StrongDM Desktop (macOS only)

  1. Select the desktop app’s sdm icon from the menu bar on your screen.
  2. Press the esc key three times. That causes the prompt to change from email to service account token.
  3. Paste the service account token and click continue.

Environment Variables

The StrongDM client checks the local environment for the variable SDM_ADMIN_TOKEN. There are several ways to add the variable to the environment: via export, specifying the command in your shell profile, or adding it before a command.


sdm login

Shell profile

You can add the environment variable during a login event by specifying the previous command in your shell profile. This approach is similar among all of the shells.

echo 'export SDM_ADMIN_TOKEN=<TOKEN>' >> ~/.bash_profile

In line

Environment variable can also be read when specified before a command.


Check That It Is Working

At this point, you should see any assigned resources in your desktop app or the CLI.

To check in the desktop app, click the sdm icon in the menu bar of your screen. All of the resources available to you are shown.

To check in the CLI, enter the command sdm status, as in the following example.

$ sdm status
DATASOURCE          STATUS            PORT      TYPE
pgsql_1_31          not connected     5432      postgres

SSH SERVER          STATUS            PORT      TYPE
server-245a         not connected     61334     ssh

General Usage

Once authenticated, the CLI and desktop app behave the same as they would for a normal user.

Service Accounts on Windows

Standard Windows Installation

Most users following the standard Windows installation can authenticate StrongDM with a service account token and these steps:

  1. Start the StrongDM Desktop application.
  2. At the login window, hit the <esc> key three times.
  3. This changes the login field to say service account token.
  4. Paste the token and click continue.

Automated Installation

To bypass the desktop app and use only the CLI, or to automate the installation process, you can directly download just the StrongDM CLI from the Admin UI. The steps in this section can also be used to install the StrongDM CLI as a Windows service. This package works on Windows 2008R2 and later.

To successfully perform the steps in this section, you must be:

  • A StrongDM administrator with the ability to create and retrieve a service account token.
  • A local administrator on your Windows workstation.

Download the CLI package

Start by following steps 1 through 5 in the Download the StrongDM CLI section. Additionally, you can directly download the CLI installer.

Run the installer

Use the following steps to run the installer after it is downloaded and unzipped.

  1. Open a PowerShell terminal as an administrator.

  2. Navigate to the directory containing the sdm32.exe binary we unzipped when downloading the StrongDM CLI.

  3. Run .\sdm32.exe install to receive the following output. If prompted, confirm to continue with administrator access. Newer versions of Windows correctly determine administrator privileges and do not typically show this prompt.

    Installing StrongDM listener
    - paste the token and press ENTER:
  4. Paste the service account token assigned to this resource and hit enter.

  5. Customize the installation path and data path, or hit enter twice to accept the defaults. A successful install looks like the following output. If the installation fails, verify you are running PowerShell as an administrator.

    Installing StrongDM listener
    paste the token and press ENTER:
    installation path [C:\Program Files (x86)\StrongDM]:
    data path [C:\WINDOWS\system32\config\systemprofile\AppData\Local\StrongDM]:
    Copying files
    Installation complete
    Service installed and started

Test the setup

To confirm the installation and authentication were successful, open a new PowerShell window as an admin and run sdm status. The output looks similar to this:

C:\Windows\system32> sdm status
     CLOUD             STATUS             PORT OVERRIDE     TYPE         TAGS                 URL
     AWS example       not connected      65111             aws          region=us-west-2

     CLUSTER           STATUS             PORT OVERRIDE     TYPE         TAGS
     K8s example       not connected      18443             kubernetes   team=Example

     DATASOURCE        STATUS             PORT OVERRIDE     TYPE         TAGS
     mysql-db          not connected      13306             mysql
     oracle-db         not connected      11521             oracle

     SERVER            STATUS             PORT OVERRIDE     TYPE         TAGS
     TCP example       not connected      59150             rawtcp

Windows as a service installation

This section contains information about how to install the StrongDM CLI on Windows in order to run it as a background service that automatically connects to certain resources on startup. Before you continue, download the CLI package and run the installer.

When running the StrongDM CLI package in this manner, the installer updates the Windows registry, assigning the StrongDM executable to the service and making sure the software boots with the winsvc process. If you delete these Windows registry entries for winscv, the StrongDM executable behaves like the typical CLI included with the desktop app.

To ensure proper authentication, the StrongDM executable requires that the StrongDM listener service is running. The port opened when the listener starts is 65220. To confirm these details, use these steps.

  1. Open the Command Prompt.

  2. Confirm the port is in use:

    netstat -ano | find "LISTEN" | find "65220"

    The process ID (PID) is listed in the last column.

  3. Confirm which process is using the port:

    tasklist /fi "PID eq <PID_VALUE>

    The output shows the image name, PID, session name, session number, and memory usage information, as in the following example.

    Image Name                     PID Session Name        Session#    Mem Usage
    ========================= ======== ================ =========== ============
    sdm.exe                      26740 Services                   0     48,760 K
Uninstall the Windows service

To uninstall the Windows service, run:

sdm32.exe uninstall

This action removes the StrongDM listener and deletes any keys previously added to the Windows registry. The output looks similar to the following:

sdm32.exe uninstall
preparing to uninstall ...
uninstalling StrongDM listener
uninstall failed, see sdm-uninstall-1594851455.log for details
press enter to close...

If you have trouble authenticating with your service account, please contact with details.