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Tip of the Week: NIST Password Guidelines

Tip of the Week: NIST Password Guidelines

Passwords have always been important to businesses, but they are priorities for organizations in certain industries. Government-based organizations in particular need to be concerned about using secure passwords. Of course, not all businesses are government-based, but there’s a thing or two your own can learn about some of their password practices.

The United States’ National Institute of Standards and Technology has new password recommendations and standards for government officials, and you can learn a thing or two from them. Some of these might seem weird at first, but try to think about it from a user’s perspective. Keep in mind, these recommended practices are new and not supported on all sites and login accounts. Here are just a few of them:

  • Make the passwords user-friendly: The regulations of NIST demand that passwords should be user-friendly above all else. They should also place the burden on the verifier whenever possible. NakedSecurity explains this further by elaborating that forcing best practices upon users doesn’t always help: “Much research has gone into the efficacy of many of our so-called ‘best practices’ and it turns out they don’t help enough to be worth the pain they cause.”
  • Use a minimum of eight characters: All passwords must have a bar minimum of eight characters. This can include spaces, ASCII characters, and even emojis. The maximum number of characters is also indicated at 64.
  • Cross-check poor password choices: NIST recommends that users stay away from well-known or common passwords, like “password,” “thisisapassword,” etc.

For some tips on what to avoid in passwords, here are some to consider:

  • Avoid composition rules: Telling employees what to use in their passwords doesn’t help. Instead, encourage your users to use passphrases that are long and alphanumeric in nature.
  • Eliminate password hints: Anything that makes it easier for someone to recover a lost password should be removed. This goes for the hints, as they are often questions that can be answered just by digging through a person’s social media profile or public records.
  • Cut out password expiration: The more often a user has to reset their password, the more annoyed they will get. Instead, reset passwords only if they are forgotten, phished, or stolen.

NIST standards might seem a little strange from a traditional password security standpoint, but they aim to make passwords more user-friendly while maintaining security. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments.

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