LCNC-SEC-01: Account Impersonation

Risk Rating *

Prevalence Detectability Exploitability Technical Impact
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The Gist

Low-code/no-code applications can be embedded with a developer account which is used implicitly by any application user. This creates a direct path towards Privilege Escalation, allowing an attacker to hide behind another user’s identity, circumventing traditional security controls.

Business User Description

A critical component of any system is tracking what user is taking actions in that system. When account impersonation occurs it “looks” like actions taken by one user are being done by another.


Identities are embedded within each built application, and multiple users can use that application. This creates a direct path for application users to escalate privileges, which is atypical and should be avoided whenever possible.

Low-code/no-code applications can take advantage of embedded user accounts rather than having their own application identity. Embedded identities can belong to the application creator, or they could be a common identity shared by teams, such as database credentials. They could also be service accounts or shared identities.

The lack of application identity hides the application’s existence from monitoring systems outside of the low-code/no-code platform. As an outside viewer, any user that uses the application is impersonating the application’s creator, and there is no way to distinguish between the application and its creator. The problem becomes even more acute when applications use different identities to operate on various platforms. In such a case, one user could be used to store files on a file-sharing SaaS and another user to retrieve on-premise data.

Example Attack Scenarios

Scenario #1

A developer creates a simple application to view records from a database. They use their identity to log into the database, creating a connection embedded within the application. Every action that any user performs in this application ends up querying the database using the developer’s identity. A malicious user takes advantage of this and uses the application to view, modify or delete records they should not have access to. Database logs indicate that all queries were made by a single user, the trusted developer.

Scenario #2

A developer creates a business application that allows employees to fill out forms with their personal information. To store form responses, the developer uses their personal email account. Users have no way of knowing that the app is storing their data on the developer’s personal account.

Scenario #3

A developer creates a business application and shares it with an administrator. The developer configures the app to use its user’s identity. Aside from its stated purpose, the app also uses its user’s identity to elevate the privileges of the developer. Once the admin uses the app, they inadvertently elevate the developer’s privileges.

Example Attack & Misuse Scenarios - Business Users

Scenario #1

A developer builds a No Code/Low Code Robotic Process Automation (RPA) application that connects to a database to update records. The connection uses the Admin’s authentication (username and password) to log updates. Although 10 different users use this RPA process, all actions are being recorded as being done by the Admin. Logging systems can no longer track productivity, attribute errors to specific users, or identify malicious behavior.

Scenario #2

A developer builds an application to help the sales team in the field. The developer uses their credentials (username and password) when writing the application, so all sales made through the application are attributed to the developer, not the sales person facilitating the sale.

How to Prevent

  • Adhere to the principle of least privilege when provisioning connections to databases/services/SaaS
  • Ensure applications use dedicated service or application accounts rather than user accounts
  • Ensure applications use a single consistent identity across all their connections, rather than a different identity for each. Use a dedicated service or application account for those connections
  • Ensure a proper audit trail is maintained to identify the actor behind actions performed through the shared connection, whether those connections are shared by virtue of users using the application or by granting users access to that connection directly