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 <Company Name>'s entire corporate network. As such, all <Company Name> employees (including contractors and vendors with access to <Company Name> systems) are responsible for taking the appropriate steps, as outlined below, 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.            

3.0 Scope 

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 <Company Name> facility, has access to the <Company Name> network, or stores any non-public <Company Name> information. 

4.0 Policy

4.1 General

4.2 Guidelines 

A. General Password Construction Guidelines

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


Poor, weak passwords have the following characteristics:


            o    Names of family, pets, friends, co-workers, fantasy characters, etc.

            o    Computer terms and names, commands, sites, companies, hardware, software.

            o    The words "<Company Name>", "sanjose", "sanfran" or any derivation.

            o    Birthdays and other personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.

            o    Word or number patterns like aaabbb, qwerty, zyxwvuts, 123321, etc.

            o    Any of the above spelled backwards.

            o    Any of the above preceded or followed by a digit (e.g., secret1, 1secret)

Strong passwords have the following characteristics:

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

B. Password Protection Standards

Do not use the same password for <Company Name> accounts as for other non-<Company Name> access (e.g., personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, etc.). Where possible, don't use the same password for various <Company Name> 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 an NT account and a UNIX account.

Do not share <Company Name> passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, Confidential <Company Name> information.

Here is a list of "dont's":

If someone demands a password, refer them to this document or have them call someone in the Information Security Department.

Do not use the "Remember Password" feature of applications  (e.g., 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  and change all passwords.

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

C. Application Development Standards

D. Use of Passwords and Passphrases for Remote Access Users

Access to the <Company Name> Networks via remote access is to be controlled using either a one-time password authentication or a public/private key system with a strong passphrase.

E. Passphrases

Passphrases are generally used for public/private key authentication. A public/private key system defines a mathematical relationship between the public key that is known by all, and the private key, that 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. An example of a good passphrase:

"The*?#>*@TrafficOnThe101Was*&#!#This Morning"

All of the rules above that apply to passwords apply to passphrases.            

5.0 Enforcement

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

6.0 Definitions

Terms                                                                   Definitions

Application Administration Account               Any account that is for the administration of an application (e.g., Oracle database administrator, ISSU administrator). 

7.0 Revision History


[1] The SANS Institute - http://www.sans.org/resources/policies/#template . Retrieved on June 14, 2007