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Organizations must establish a standard for the creation, maintenance, and storage of strong passwords. There are currently two approaches an organization should review when implementing a password policy. The first is to follow all guidelines provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) password recommendations, as listed in Special Publication (SP) 800-63B, Section 126.96.36.199. If an organization is unable to follow NIST SP 800-63B due to budgetary or technological constraints, it is recommended that the following be used while working towards the NIST standard.
- Implement complexity rules that:
- Allow for a minimum password length of 14 characters.
- Force passwords to contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers 0 through 9, and non-alphanumeric characters.
- Do not allow repetitive or sequential characters (e.g. ‘aaaaaa’, ‘abc123’).
- Do not allow context-specific words, including usernames and their derivatives.
To calculate the entropy (strength) of a password, the character set is raised to the power of the password length. There are 26 uppercase, 26 lowercase, 10 digit, and 33 ASCII-printable symbols available on the average keyboard. A computer can guess over 1 billion passwords per second.