Password Policy

Here is one company's password standard. Again, it is short and to the point.

1.0 Overview

Passwords are an important aspect of computer security. They are the front line of protection for user accounts. A poorly chosen password may result in the compromise of 's entire corporate network. As such, all employees (including contractors and vendors with access to systems) are responsible for taking the appropriate steps, as outlined here, to select and secure their passwords.

2.0 Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish a standard for creation of strong passwords, the protection of those passwords, and the frequency of change.

The scope of this policy includes all personnel who have or are responsible for an account (or any form of access that supports or requires a password) on any system that resides at any facility, has access to the network, or stores any nonpublic information.

4.0 Policy

4.1 General

  • All system-level passwords (for example, root, enable, Windows NT admin, application administration accounts) must be changed on at least a quarterly basis.
  • All user-level passwords (for example, e-mail, web, desktop computer) must be changed at least every six months. The recommended change interval is every four months.
  • User accounts that have system-level privileges granted through group memberships or programs such as sudo must have a unique password from all other accounts held by that user.
  • Passwords must not be inserted into e-mail messages or other forms of electronic communication.
  • Where SNMP is used, the community strings must be defined as something other than the standard defaults of "public," "private," and "system" and must be different from the passwords used to log in interactively. A keyed hash must be used where available (for example, SNMPv2).
  • All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the following guidelines.

4.2 Guidelines

General Password Construction Guidelines

Passwords are used for various purposes at . Some of the more common uses include user-level accounts, web accounts, e-mail accounts, screen saver protection, voicemail password, and local router logins. Because very few systems have support for one-time tokens (that is, dynamic passwords that are used only once), everyone should be aware of how to select strong passwords.

Poor, weak passwords have the following characteristics:

  • The password contains less than eight characters.
  • The password is a word found in a dictionary (English or foreign).
  • The password is a word in common usage such as:

    - Names of family members, pets, friends, coworkers, fantasy characters, and so forth

    - Computer terms and names, commands, sites, companies, hardware, software

    - The words "" or any derivation

    - Birthdays and other personal information such as addresses and phone numbers

    - Word or number patterns such as aaabbb, qwerty, zyxwvuts, 123321

    - Any of the preceding spelled backward

    - Any of the preceding preceded or followed by a digit (for example, secret1, 1secret)

Strong passwords have the following characteristics:

  • Contain both upper- and lowercase characters (az, AZ)
  • Have digits and punctuation characters as well as letters, including 09, !@#$%^&*()_+|~-=`{}[]:";'<>?,./
  • Are at least eight alphanumeric characters long
  • Are not a word in any language, slang, dialect, or jargon
  • Are not based on personal information or names of family members
  • Are never be written down or stored online

Try to create passwords that can be easily remembered. One way to do this is to create a password based on a song title, affirmation, or other phrase. For example, the phrase might be "This May Be One Way To Remember," and the password could be "TmB1w2R!" or "Tmb1W>r~" or some other variation.

Note: Do not use either of these examples as passwords!

Password Protection Standards

Do not use the same password for accounts as for other non- access (that is, personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, and so forth). When possible, don't use the same password for various access needs. For example, select one password for the engineering systems and a separate password for IT systems. Also, select a separate password to be used for a Windows NT account and a UNIX account.

Do not share passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, confidential information.

Here is a list of don'ts for password use:

  • Don't reveal a password over the phone to anyone.
  • Don't reveal a password in an e-mail message.
  • Don't reveal a password to your boss.
  • Don't talk about a password in front of others.
  • Don't hint at the format of a password (for example, "my family name").
  • Don't reveal a password on questionnaires or security forms.
  • Don't share a password with family members.
  • Don't reveal a password to coworkers while on vacation.

If someone demands a password, refer that person to this document or to someone in the information security department.

Do not use the "Remember Password" feature of applications (for instance, Eudora, Outlook, Netscape Messenger).

Again, do not write passwords down and store them anywhere in your office. Do not store passwords in a file on any computer system (including Palm Pilots or similar devices) without encryption.

Change passwords at least once every six months (except system-level passwords, which must be changed quarterly). The recommended change interval is every four months.

If an account or password is suspected to have been compromised, report the incident to INFOSEC and change all passwords.

Password cracking or guessing might be performed on a periodic or random basis by INFOSEC or its delegates. If a password is guessed or cracked during one of these scans, the user will be required to change the password.

Application Development Standards

Application developers must ensure that their programs adhere to the following security precautions:

  • They should support authentication of individual users, not groups.
  • They should not store passwords in cleartext or in any easily reversible form.
  • They should provide for some sort of role management so that one user can take over the functions of another without having to know the other's password.
  • They should support TACACS+, RADIUS, and/or X.509 with LDAP security retrieval whenever possible.

Use of Passwords and Passphrases for Remote Access Users

Access to the networks by remote access is to be controlled using either a one-time password authentication or a public/private key system with a strong passphrase.


Passphrases are generally used for public/private key authentication. A public/private key system defines a mathematical relationship between the public key, which is known by all, and the private key, which is known only to the user. Without the passphrase to "unlock" the private key, the user cannot gain access.

Passphrases are not the same as passwords. A passphrase is a longer version of a password and is, therefore, more secure. A passphrase is typically composed of multiple words. Because of this, a passphrase is more secure against "dictionary attacks."

A good passphrase is relatively long and contains a combination of upper- and lowercase letters and numeric and punctuation characters. Here is an example of a good passphrase:


All of the preceding rules for passwords apply to passphrases.

5.0 Enforcement

Any employee found to have violated this policy can be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.

6.0 Definitions



Application administration account

Any account that is for the administration of an application (for example, Oracle database administrator, ISSU administrator).


7.0 Revision History

Part I. Network Security Foundations

Network Security Axioms

Security Policy and Operations Life Cycle

Secure Networking Threats

Network Security Technologies

Part II. Designing Secure Networks

Device Hardening

General Design Considerations

Network Security Platform Options and Best Deployment Practices

Common Application Design Considerations

Identity Design Considerations

IPsec VPN Design Considerations

Supporting-Technology Design Considerations

Designing Your Security System

Part III. Secure Network Designs

Edge Security Design

Campus Security Design

Teleworker Security Design

Part IV. Network Management, Case Studies, and Conclusions

Secure Network Management and Network Security Management

Case Studies



Appendix A. Glossary of Terms

Appendix B. Answers to Applied Knowledge Questions

Appendix C. Sample Security Policies

INFOSEC Acceptable Use Policy

Password Policy

Guidelines on Antivirus Process


Network Security Architectures
Network Security Architectures
ISBN: 158705115X
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2006
Pages: 249
Authors: Sean Convery © 2008-2020.
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