Reusing Azure Automation Run As Accounts

TL;DRTo copy a Run As account to a different Automation Account, run this script in your source Automation Account.

As a solution architect, I work with a lot of enterprise customers.  It’s interesting and challenging, but every so often (oh who am I kidding…ALL the time) I get asked some off-the wall questions.  This time it was how to use the same Run As account across multiple Azure Automation accounts.

Why would you ever need to do this?  Well, in this case the organization had locked down Application Registrations in Azure AD.  So in order to have Azure Automation automatically provision a Run As account, the user also needed fairly hefty AAD privileges.  Why would an organization ever want to lock that down?  Hey…one problem at a time.  Bottom line, the organization already had a Run As account setup and they wanted to just reuse it in other Automation Accounts.  Ok…let’s get started.

Why is this harder that it should be?

Azure makes it super easy to create a new Run As account as part of the overall Automation Account setup.  It’s just a simple Yes/No toggle.  When you select ‘Yes’ Azure registers an Application/Service Principal in Azure AD, assigns subscription permissions to the SPN, and adds a Connection and Certificate to the Automation Account.  Pretty good for just clicking ‘Yes’.

To use the same Run As account in another Automation Account you just need to copy the Connection and Certificate from the source to the target account.  Easy right?  Ha!  If you drill into the Connection information in the Automation Account, you can see that it is all text.  You can manually create a Connection in your target Automation Account and just copy/paste the information over.

Halfway there…but look at the Certificates in your target Automation Account.  You’ll see that the AzureRunAsCertificate is marked as Exportable.  However, there’s no UI to actually export the certificate.  Did I hear you just mumble ‘duh, use PowerShell’?  Well, go ahead and take a look there…I’ll wait.

Yep.  No remote cert export available there either – but all is not lost.  If we could get some code to run where the certificate is loaded then we could export it locally.

Well, whenever a Runbook executes a runtime environment is provisioned.  Part of that provisioning is to load in the certificate from the Automation Account into the host OS of the runtime environment – i.e. the local certificate store of the VM running the runbook.

Therefore, we can use a Runbook to export the certificate from the local certificate store, and then push it into the target Automation Account.


The Solution

We are going to build a PowerShell script to run in a Runbook within our source Automation Account.  This script will grab the certificate from the local certificate store, export it, and then copy it to the target Automation Account along with creating a connection.

The first part is pretty easy, using the SPN connection in the source we grab the certificate thumbprint.  We can then use this to locate the actual certificate in the local certificate store (Cert:\CurrentUser\My):

### Loading local certificate	
	Write-Output "Getting Local Certificate..."
	$thumbprint = $servicePrincipalConnection.CertificateThumbprint
	$cert = Get-ChildItem -Path Cert:\CurrentUser\My | where {$_.Thumbprint -match $thumbprint}
	Write-Output $cert

Now that we have the cert, we can export it to a local file.  The export process requires a password to protect the certificate since it is being stored on disk.  The password is only a temporary password used for the export/import and is not part of the certificate itself.  Once you upload the certificate into the target Automation Account you do not need to keep the password.

### Exporting local certificate		
	$certFile =  ($env:TEMP) + $certFile
	Write-Output "Exporting Certificate to File: $certFile"
	$certPassword = ConvertTo-SecureString -String $certPassword -Force -AsPlainText
	[system.IO.file]::WriteAllBytes($certFile, ($cert.Export('PFX', $certPassword)))

The last bit is to use the New-AzureRmAutomationCertificate and New-AzureRmAutomationConnection commands to push information over to the target account.  The Connection information is just pulled dynamically from the source account.

### Copying local certificate to target automation account
	if(Test-Path $certFile){
		Write-Output "Certificate Successfully Exported"
		Write-Output "Importing Certificate..."
		New-AzureRmAutomationCertificate -ResourceGroupName $targetResourceGroup -AutomationAccountName $targetAutomationAccount -Name $certName -Path $certFile -Exportable -Password $certPassword
		Write-Output "Import Complete"
		Write-Output "Creating Connection..."
		$connectionFieldValues = @{"ApplicationId" = $servicePrincipalConnection.ApplicationId; "TenantId" = $servicePrincipalConnection.TenantId; "CertificateThumbprint" = $thumbprint; "SubscriptionId" = (Get-AzureRmContext).Subscription.Id}
		New-AzureRmAutomationConnection -ResourceGroupName $targetResourceGroup -AutomationAccountName $targetAutomationAccount -Name $connName -ConnectionTypeName $connType -ConnectionFieldValues $connectionFieldValues
		Write-Output "Connection Created"
	} else {
		Write-Output "Certificate Export Failed"


The full PowerShell script can be found here:

Simply create a new PowerShell Runbook in your source Automation Account.  Drop in the script code and update the target Resource Group & Automation Account name.  Then run it.  If you are in the portal UI you can just hop over to the Test Pane to run it.

Once it runs you should be able to go to your target Automation Account and under Account Settings click ‘Run as accounts’ to see your connected Run As accounts.


WARNING: Reusing Run As accounts in this manner can cause some unwanted behaviors.  Behind the scenes Automation Accounts are tied to their Run As accounts.  If you delete an Automation Account, Azure will attempt to clean up any associated Run As accounts – i.e. the Run As application/SPN in Azure AD will also be deleted.  So deleting an Automation Account will break any other connected Automation Accounts that are using the same Run As account.

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