Discovery is the process where Secret Server scans an environment to find accounts and associated resources called dependencies. Once accounts are found, they can be used to create new secrets in Secret Server. Users with the "administer discovery" role permission can either manually import accounts or can create an automated process to do so. Using discovery does not stop users from manually creating their own secrets.

Some typical accounts that discovery can find include Windows local admin, Windows domain, and Unix non-daemon. Some typical dependencies discovery can scan for include scheduled tasks running as a domain user, application pools running as a domain user, and services running as a domain user.

Account and dependency types not supported out-of-the-box in Secret Server can still be discovered by writing PowerShell scripts that you can run as custom scanners. See Extensible Discovery.

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Discovery Benefits

Quick Initial and Ongoing Importation of Network Credentials

By using discovery, your Secret Server offsets the burden of keeping track of computers and accounts on your network. This can be especially beneficial when getting started for discovering and importing accounts in bulk, as well as having Secret Server find accounts and create secrets whenever a new machine or account is provisioned.

Protection Against Backdoor Accounts

When Secret Server is configured to discover new accounts, it provides added protection by regularly running discovery on your network to identify those accounts. Secret Server adds the new accounts to its records and resets the accounts password to values that meet your security policy. Consequentially, if someone is setting up backdoor admin accounts on the network, they cannot use those accounts very long before they are imported into Secret Server and their passwords are changed with Remote Password Changing (RPC).

Discovery Types

Active Directory Discovery

Secret Server AD discovery scans for AD machines, AD user accounts, local Windows accounts, and dependencies on an AD domain. First, SS discovers machines from your domain. Next, SS scans each machine for local Windows accounts and dependencies that depend on domain accounts. By default, SS scans for local accounts, domain accounts, scheduled tasks, Windows services, and IIS application pools. You can discover additional accounts and dependencies by creating PowerShell scanners. PowerShell scanners are an advanced topic described in the Extensible Discovery section.

ESX/ESXi Discovery

Secret Server provides a wizard to help configure ESX/ESXi discovery. You name the discovery Source, define the host ranges of the desired IP addresses, and choose a secret to use as credentials when scanning.

Secret Server provides a "Generic Discovery—Only Credentials" secret type that stores a simple username and password pair for Unix or ESX/ESXi discovery. It is intended only for discovery and is incapable of RPC.

AWS Discovery

Secret Server can scan Amazon Web Services (AWS) for accounts that can access the cloud resource. Two types of secrets can be discovered and managed through Secret Server:

  • AWS Access Key: Keys used for programmatic integration with AWS.

  • AWS Console Account: User login accounts for AWS.

Google Cloud Platform Discovery

Secret Server can manage Google Cloud Platform (GCP) service accounts and VM instances. This feature allows users to run discovery to pull and manage VM Instances, as well as import and manage GCP service accounts.

Unix Discovery

Secret Server provides a wizard to help configure Unix discovery. You name the discovery Source, define the host ranges of the desired IP addresses, and choose a secret to use as credentials when scanning. The default command sets that Secret Server ships with discovers machines and accounts in most Unix environments.

By default, the "Find Non-Daemon Users (Basic Unix)" command set is used first. If a built-in account is discovered, you must modify the discovery source to use the "Find All Users (Basic Unix)" command set. You can create new command sets by clicking the Configure tab on the Discovery Sources page.

Extensible Discovery

You can customize discovery by changing parts of it to use PowerShell. The information a discovery scanner outputs is defined by its scanner template. For standard templates, the input and output information types are fixed. Extensible discovery allows you to customize or replace the unmanaged account, IP address and OU, account, and dependency discovery steps above. Extensible discovery does still have limitations on what information is passed between discovery scanners. For more information, see Extensible Discovery.

Discovery Performance

Please see our Discovery Best Practices to learn about optimizing discovery performance.