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Password Mistakes You and Your Employees Are (Probably) Making
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And How to Implement a Strong Password Policy

Your employees might already be aware of a few password security practices. But are they actually following the latest recommendations? In fact, are you aware of what makes up a strong password policy? Both you and your employees could be (unknowingly) making common password mistakes and applying antiquated password security guidelines. So, keep on reading to make sure you’re in alignment with the most recent password requirements.

In this article, I’m going to share with you pieces of advice on how you can prevent the most frequent password mistakes and how you can create a strong password policy for your organization.

Some of the points covered in this article may seem controversial at first glance and completely out of sync with the password security rules that we’ve all grown accustomed to by now. Nonetheless, they are supported by the latest password guidelines released by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST 800-63-3: Digital Identity Guidelines. For those unfamiliar with this institution, to give you a quick background, they are a non-regulatory federal agency within the US Department of Commerce, whose guidelines oftentimes have built the foundation of the security industry’s standards.

The NIST paper isn’t new. In fact, it was released more than two years ago. Yet, many organizations still seem to be ignoring it and this is why we’ve decided to bring it into the spotlight and present their instructions on password security.

What are the Best Practices for Creating a Strong Password Policy?

Older NIST password security guidelines required enforcing policies such as using highly complex passwords, changing them regularly, and forbidding password reuse. However, their newest guide is based upon a quite radically different approach.

Does this mean that your employees should be setting their passwords to “Password1234” and never change them?

Of course not. This new approach is focused on making password management easier and more user-friendly. It has been created based on studies showing that very strict password policies only lead to poorer password habits.

Below you will find password security recommendations that will make it slightly easier for your employees to comply with and for you to keep your business secured. So, here is what you should do to promote a healthy password security management among your employees based on NIST’s recommendations:

#1. Stop asking your users to change their passwords on a predefined schedule

First of all, your users will be thankful that they won’t have to create new passwords and remember the new ones every 90 days (or even more frequently). Most of them do not even change their passwords entirely anyway and only add an extra character at the end every time they are required to modify them. So how does this practice reinforce password security?

Periodic password resets have been created in order to reduce the period of time a system is exposed due to an account potentially being compromised. But why change passwords if there is no suspicious of a breach? Useless password resets burden users and create additional tasks for sysadmins if, for instance, your employees forget them and require password resets.

So, how often should your users change their passwords?

According to NIST, passwords should NOT be changed unless there is evidence of a data breach or any reason which shows a specific account has been compromised. In other words, only when there is a possible danger related to an account should password resets be mandatory, rather than making your users change their passwords on a predetermined schedule.
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