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

Summary

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

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