Network and Computer Policies & Procedures

Password Policy

1.0 Overview

Passwords are an important aspect of computer security.  A poorly chosen password may result in unauthorized access and/or exploitation of Finance and Administrative Affairs (FAA) resources.  All users, including contractors and vendors with access to FAA systems, are responsible for taking the appropriate steps, as outlined below, to select and secure their passwords.

2.0 Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish a standard for creation of strong passwords, the protection of those passwords, and the frequency of change.

3.0 Scope

The scope of this policy includes all personnel who have or are responsible for an account (or any form of access that supports or requires a password) on any system that resides within any FAA supported department, has access to the FAA network, or stores any non-public FAA information.

4.0 Policy

4.1 General

  • All system-level passwords (e.g., root, Windows Administrator, application administration accounts, etc.) must be changed on at least a quarterly basis.
  • All production system-level passwords must be part of the FAA Systems administered global password management database.
  • All user-level passwords (e.g., desktop computer) must be changed at least every six months.
  • User accounts that have system-level privileges granted through group memberships must have a unique password from all other accounts held by that user.
  • All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the guidelines described below.
  • All user accounts will be locked out after 5 failed attempts within a 15 minute window. Accounts will remain locked out for 8 hours, or until a help desk technician unlocks the account.

4.2 Guidelines

A. General Password Construction Guidelines

All users at FAA should be aware of how to select strong passwords. Strong passwords have the following characteristics:

  • Contain at least three of the five following character classes:
  1. Lower case characters
  2. Upper case characters
  3. Numbers
  4. Punctuation
  5. "Special" characters (e.g. @#$%^&*()_+|~-=\`{}[]:";'<>/ etc)
  • Contain at least eight alphanumeric characters.

Weak passwords have the following characteristics:

  • The password contains less than eight characters
  • The password is a word found in a dictionary (English or foreign)
  • The password is a common usage word such as:
  1. Names of family, pets, friends, co-workers, fantasy characters, etc.
  2. Computer terms and names, commands, sites, companies, hardware, software.
  3. The words "Finance and Administrative Affairs", "Milwaukee", "University of Wisconsin Milwaukee" or any derivation.
  4. Birthdays and other personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.
  5. Word or number patterns like aaabbb, qwerty, zyxwvuts, 123321, etc.
  6. Any of the above spelled backwards.
  7. Any of the above preceded or followed by a digit (e.g., secret1, 1secret)

Try to create passwords that can be easily remembered. One way to do this is create a password based on a song title, affirmation, or other phrase. For example, the phrase might be: "This May Be One Way To Remember" and the password could be: "TmB1w2R!" or "Tmb1W>r~" or some other variation.
(NOTE: Do not use either of these examples as passwords!)

B. Password Protection Standards
  • Always use different passwords for FAA accounts from other non-FAA access (e.g., personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, etc.).
  • Always use different passwords for various FAA access needs whenever possible.  For example, select one password for systems that use directory services (i.e. LDAP, Active Directory, etc.) for authentication and another for locally authenticated access.
  • Do not share FAA passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, confidential FAA information.
  • Passwords should never be written down or stored on-line without encryption.
  • Do not reveal a password in email, chat, or other electronic communication.
  • Do not speak about a password in front of others.
  • Do not hint at the format of a password (e.g., "my family name")
  • Do not reveal a password on questionnaires or security forms
  • If someone demands a password, refer them to this document and direct them to the FAA Systems department.
  • Always decline the use of the "Remember Password" feature of applications  (e.g., PantherLink, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox).

If an account or password compromise is suspected, report the incident to the FAA Systems Department.

C. Application Development Standards

Application developers must ensure their programs contain the following security precautions.

  • Shall support authentication of individual users, not groups.
  • Shall not store passwords in clear text or in any easily reversible form.
  • Shall provide for some sort of role management, such that one user can take over the functions of another without having to know the other's password.
  • Shall support LDAP security retrieval wherever possible.

5.0 Enforcement

  • Any employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to termination of any administrative rights. Password cracking or guessing may be performed on a periodic or random basis by the FAA Systems Department or its delegates. If a password is guessed or cracked during these exercises, the user/owner will be required to change it.
  • Domains supported by FAA Systems will be audited for password policy consistency every 6 months. Any accounts found to be not conforming to the password policy will be modified to ensure consistency.

6.0 Terms and Definitions

Administrative Account:  Any account that has administrative rights within any product supported by FAA Systems (e.g. AuxCash, Windows, RightFax, etc.)

7.0 Revision History

  • Eric Skibicki, 2011-12-09
  • Eric Skibicki, 2012-05-29