Gartner Research

Best Practices for Managing Passwords: Policies Must Balance Risk, Compliance and Usability Needs

Published: 15 July 2010

ID: G00201000

Analyst(s): Ant Allan


A password policy that stresses password strength and other regulatory requirements may tax users and drive behavior that actually reduces security. Follow Gartner's best practices to balance risk and compliance needs against ease of use.

Table Of Contents
  • Overview
  • The Unbearable Weakness of Passwords
  • Regulatory Requirements Are Sometimes Concrete and Sometimes Abstract
  • Password Confidentiality Is a Strict Requirement
  • Passwords Should Be Long and Complex — But Not Too Long or Too Complex
    • Rules for Strong Chosen Passwords
  • Password Aging Is Widely Advocated but Rarely Worthwhile
  • Users Can Still Elect to Change Passwords at Any Time
  • Password History Discourages Password Reuse
  • Grace Logins Let Legitimate Users Enter the Wrong Password Without Penalty
  • Password Reset Procedures Must Mitigate Attacks Against Administrators

©2021 Gartner, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Gartner is a registered trademark of Gartner, Inc. and its affiliates. This publication may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without Gartner’s prior written permission. It consists of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization, which should not be construed as statements of fact. While the information contained in this publication has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner research may address legal and financial issues, Gartner does not provide legal or investment advice and its research should not be construed or used as such. Your access and use of this publication are governed by Gartner’s Usage Policy. Gartner prides itself on its reputation for independence and objectivity. Its research is produced independently by its research organization without input or influence from any third party. For further information, see Guiding Principles on Independence and Objectivity.

Already have a Gartner Account?

Purchase this Document

To purchase this document, you will need to register or sign in above

Become a client

Learn how to access this content as a Gartner client.