Service Accounts

Service Accounts

A Service Account provides developers with a programmatic authentication mechanism for server-side integrations with Box. In other words, an application can authenticate to Box as the service, which is represented by a Service Account user. A Service Account can then be used to create other application specific users, called App Users.

Service Account Diagram

Creation

A unique Box Service Account is automatically generated as soon as an application, leveraging server authentication, is authorized in the Admin Console. From that point forward, the Service Account represents the application in the Box enterprise. Since every Box account must have an email address, Box assigns one. The format will always be AutomationUser_AppServiceID_RandomString@boxdevedition.com. For example: AutomationUser_123456_6jCo6Pqwo@boxdevedition.com. This is why you may sometimes hear the Service Account referred to as an Automation User.

The numbers surrounded by underscores are also unique to the application and are called a Service ID. To locate a Service ID in the Developer Console, click on the tile for an application and look at the URL. For example, https://example.app.box.com/developers/console/app/123456. As you can see, this application corresponds to the Service Account provided in the example above.

Once the Service Account is generated, a section is automatically added to the General tab of the Developer Console revealing the email address.

Service Account Email Address

If someone attempts to make API calls using a Service Account Access Token before the application is authorized in the Admin Console they will receive an error message: "error":"unauthorized_client" "error_description": "This app is not authorized by the enterprise"

Use Cases

  • Distribution Publishing: upload and share files with any number of users whether or not they are authenticated
  • On-Premises Systems and Devices: programmatically ingest content from on-premises systems and connected devices
  • Content Migration and Monitoring: move content from on-premises to the cloud or between cloud providers
  • Event Monitoring: monitors events in an enterprise to ensure compliance and or trigger workflows based on actions
  • Content Archive: house minimally accessed content

Permissions

The endpoints that a Service Account Access Token can successfully interact with are determined by the application scopes configured in the Developer Console. Depending on the granted scopes, a Service Account may have the ability to perform Admin actions.

Admin Approval

With the right scopes enabled, a Service Account can perform many Admin actions. For this reason JWT applications need explicit Admin approval before they can be used in an enterprise.

UI Access

Only Primary Admins have the ability to log in as a Service Account through the Content Manager in the Admin Console. To do this, use the Content Manager's search bar to locate the name of the application, right click on it, and select “Log in to user’s account”.

A Service Account can be thought of as having the permissions of a Box Co-Admin. Similar to co-admins being unable to manage each other, co-admins cannot log in as a Service Account user.

Service Accounts are not currently visible in the users and group tab of the Admin Console.

Folder Tree and Collaboration

Because a Service Account represents an application as a user within the enterprise, it has its own folder tree and content ownership capabilities. By default this folder tree is empty because the Service Account does not initially own or collaborate on content. This is similar to when you first land on your All Files page in a newly provisioned Box account.

To collaborate a Service Account on existing content use the assigned email address to invite them as you would any other user. If you are instead adding the collaboration via the API you will need to use an Access Token for a user that already has access to the content and has the appropriate collaboration permissions to invite collaborators. You will also use the Service Account’s user ID, which is returned when making a call to the get current user endpoint using an Access Token for the Service Account.

It is possible to assign a Service Account an email alias if that is easier to remember when adding collaborations.

Box View

A Service Account is also automatically generated when a Limited Access App is created in the Developer Console. This Service Account has some additional restrictions that a Service Account associated with a Custom App does not.

  • All content used within the Limited Access App must be uploaded and owned by the Service Account
  • The Service Account can not access any other user's information or content
  • The Service Account can not create or otherwise manage any type of new user
  • The Service Account can only access a subset of APIs related to previewing content