12 Essential Password Change Policy Best Practices

Individuals and corporations alike must adhere to password change best practices to protect sensitive data. The implementation of a robust password change policy is essential for providing adequate protection against hackers, scammers, and other security risks. It is widely acknowledged that best password protection practices are an essential first line of defense against cyber attacks. To maintain integrity, availability, and confidentiality, the rules prevent unauthorized access to critical information and information technology infrastructures (IT infrastructures).

Even though organizations have made significant progress in other authentication methods, such as biometrics and certificate-based authentication, passwords continue to be among the most widely used. To protect their various accounts, at least 71 percent of users employ password security measures. There are numerous security challenges, however, as malicious cyber actors continue to develop new and more effective methods of circumventing password security protections and encryption. All organizations must adhere to best practices when it comes to password change policies. For best password change policy best practices to be effective, it is necessary to understand the security threats that can arise from using passwords.

Common threats to password security

A dictionary attack is a type of attack in which hackers use a software program to automatically input a list of commonly used words into a pre-arranged list of words. To increase the likelihood of successfully compromising user credentials, cracking software generates variations on common passwords.

To hack security questions, many people use the names of relatives or spouses as well as children, pets, and places of attendance as their answers. When attempting to crack a password through a password reset process, hackers can guess such information. When it comes to breaking security questions, a little research on social media can provide the information needed.

Crypto-criminals are well aware that the majority of people create passwords by stringing together a series of letters or numbers. Among other things, 123456, qwerty12345, and 1qaz2wsx are examples of numbers that are not uncommon. A company’s overall security is jeopardized if such passwords are used.

Most people have a tendency to reuse the same password across multiple accounts, which makes them vulnerable to attack. The compromise of one account (see How Does Email Get Hacked?) can allow a cyber adversary to gain access to and use the passwords of all other accounts that share this compromise. It is possible that using the same password for multiple accounts, such as social media accounts, banking, email, and work accounts, will expose you to additional security risks, such as identity theft and financial fraud.

To compromise password security, social engineering is one of the most ancient techniques still in use. Cybercriminals use social engineering to manipulate their victims into performing actions, such as disclosing protected information, for their gain. An example of such information is a password that is used to protect secret data and mission-critical systems.

Recent password security statistics

  1. Over 300 billion passwords will be in the market by 2020

Approximately 300 billion passwords are predicted to exist by the end of 2020, according to a new estimate from the Ponemon Institute. According to the survey, the increasing use of password security among both artificial intelligence and humans is to blame for the startling statistics in question. The conclusion is that an average user may be responsible for between 60 and 90 unique numbers. Using such a big number as a warning that reusing passwords or establishing weak passwords may increase cyber vulnerabilities should be taken into consideration by businesses and people.

Cyber-attacks are one of the most rapidly expanding types of criminal activity in the world.
In 2020, cyber-attacks will be among the most rapidly increasing types of criminal activity worldwide. Because cybercrimes result in increased expenses, rapid growth should be a major source of concern for both the corporate and public sectors. Cybercrime expenditures are expected to exceed $5 trillion in the next several years because financial motivations account for 71 percent of sensitive information leaks and 25 percent are related to spying. The fact that password reuse and the creation of weak passwords account for 81 percent of attacks and data breaches is concerning.

  1. Cyber-attacks are the fastest-growing crimes.

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As of 2019, at least 76 percent of firms reported being the target of phishing and other social engineering attacks. To deceive unwary users into divulging private information such as passwords and credit card numbers, cybercriminals send bogus emails, links, and attachments to their inboxes. Even though many employees are aware of social engineering assaults, they continue to click on fraudulent emails, links, and files, despite this awareness. Systems and data of a corporation are in grave danger as a result of the measures taken.

  1. Phishing and spam are among the most widely used methods for compromising password security.

In terms of detecting and preventing human errors, they rank among the most difficult problems to tackle. Statisticians have found that 52 percent of all attacks and data breaches are the result of human mistakes. A lack of cybersecurity literacy can lead to blunders among employees who are not properly trained. The most common mistakes committed in password security include sending unencrypted passwords over insecure networks, repeating passwords across several accounts, and creating weak passwords to safeguard valuable information. It is prudent for businesses to pay particular attention to the password security procedures of their teams and employees as the frequency of cyber-attacks increases in 2020.
Following are the findings of the 2019 State of Password and Authentication Security Behaviors Report, which was based on a survey of 1,761 information technology security professionals.

  1. Human errors account for most attacks.

In both personal and corporate accounts, 51% of users reuse their passwords.
Passwords are shared by 69 percent of employees with their coworkers
Multi-factor authentication is not used by 67 percent of users in their passwords, while 55 percent do not use the authentication system in their work passwords, according to the survey.
Users who have been subjected to a phishing attempt are more likely than not to continue using their passwords in the future.
Login techniques that do not require password protection are preferred by 57 percent of those who have used them.

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Top Password Change Policy Best Practices

  1. Require Employees to Create a Long, Strong Passphrase

It makes it more difficult for cybercriminals to crack passwords using brute force, dictionaries, and other sorts of password attacks if they choose strong passwords. To be considered strong, passphrases must have at least eight characters, which must include lowercase and uppercase letters as well as symbols, numbers, and letters in different combinations. Creating passphrases that are long, easy to remember, and tough to crack is recommended by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Passwords of at least 64 characters maximum length are recommended as a best practice, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-63. Include spaces between the characters.

  1. Use Password Encryption

Passwords are kept secure by utilizing encryption technology. When storing passwords and sharing passwords across a network, organization personnel should utilize cryptographic methods to ensure that the passwords are secure. If your passwords are encrypted, you may rest assured that unauthorized parties will not be able to access them. Implementing nonreversible, end-to-end encryption is the most effective password change practice to consider. Employees can communicate passwords in confidence because of the encryption provided.

  1. Use Multi-Factor Authentication

For determining access credentials to protected resources, multi-factor authentication has emerged as a crucial standard. With a multi-factor authentication strategy, users must submit additional information for their validity and authenticity to be verified and established. Users must provide additional objects transmitted to a designated device in addition to the normal credentials, such as passwords and valid usernames, to prove that they are real. It is possible to use a code, biometric verification, or even a customized USB token to complete the transaction. Malicious individuals are prevented from accessing protected data and systems by utilizing stolen password credentials, which are prevented by multi-factor authentication. Using multi-factor authentication, the assumption is that attackers will be unable to get illegal access just by cracking or guessing passwords.

  1. Test New Passwords

When it comes to passwords, most people simply create new ones and forget about them. However, while changing passwords regularly is a good practice for preserving password security, there is a chance that you would unwittingly use a password that has already been hacked. Criminals employ a list of known passwords while conducting dictionary attacks, so generating and using a hacked password makes the secured resources available to unauthorized users. Companies should compel their staff to test new passwords using online testing tools as a result of this need. The tools can also tell you whether or not a password is easily guessable. The Microsoft password strength checker is an example of such a tool.

  1. Avoid Using Dictionary Passwords

Using dictionary terms, users can build passwords and other user credentials. A dictionary currently contains 171,476 terms that can be used. To crack passwords faster, hackers create sophisticated and powerful software algorithms that can process several words per second. To maximize the likelihood of success, the software algorithms also produce variations of each word. Thus, software conducting a dictionary attack may wind up trying millions of different possibilities until a hacker discovers the perfect password combination. Using words from the dictionary while creating passwords should be avoided by employees. A long passphrase should be created by using a variety of random characters, such as alphabetic letters, special character sets, and numerals, rather than just one.

  1. Use Different Passwords for Each Account

One of the most widely advised password-changing best practices is to use a variety of passwords. Because a hacker will need to undermine the security of one account to get access to another, reusing a password in many accounts increases the risk of unauthorized access to all of them. The use of a single password to secure business accounts is discouraged, and employees, in particular, should exercise caution. It is preferable to use a password manager rather than reuse passwords in most situations. Password management tools allow users to generate a strong master password that is used to protect all other passwords saved in the program. To access the passwords that have been saved, users must remember only the master password.

  1. Change Passwords Only When There is a Potential Compromise or Threat

If there is a potential compromise or threat, only then should the password be changed.
Employees or system users are required to change their passwords over some time due to long-standing security practices. NIST password security standards, which were published recently, advise against the use of such a strategy for several reasons. For example, asking users to change their passwords regularly causes them to repeat their old passwords to prevent forgetting their new passwords. A security threat is a practice of using the same password again and over again. Additionally, employees who are subjected to frequent password changes may be more likely to write down their new passwords in case they forget. If a clean desk policy is not followed, written passwords may be accessed. Because of this, employers should only request employees to change their passwords when there is a possible threat or vulnerability.

  1. Change the Credentials for Accounts Not in Use

Accounts that are no longer in use should have their credentials changed.
The login credentials of accounts that are no longer in use must be changed by the company. A transfer to a different department or termination from the organization may be available for the personnel who were assigned the accounts. The failure to change the password credentials of inactive accounts exposes the account to a variety of security risks. Because of vengeance motivations, unhappy employees could gain access to the account and use it to execute hostile acts on the company network or steal important information. In addition, insider threats could use dormant accounts to facilitate cybercrimes and hide their identities from law enforcement authorities. All accounts that are no longer in use must be disabled, or their login credentials must be known only to trustworthy personnel, according to system administrators.

  1. Enhance the Security of Privileged User Accounts

Privileged user accounts should be made more secure.
For privileged accounts, it is necessary to take extra care while creating and encrypting passwords. Privileged accounts are user accounts that have more privileges than standard user accounts as compared to the latter. They can, for example, delete or install new software, adjust an application, network, or system configurations, or upgrade an operating system, to name a few examples of tasks. If unauthorized individuals obtain access to privileged accounts, the ramifications are extensive. Therefore, passwords used to secure privileged accounts must be subjected to additional safeguards to ensure their security. There are other options, including updating the password immediately after usage and restricting access permissions to one or two trusted individuals.

  1. Enforce a Password History

Because firms are failing to establish safeguards to prevent employees from repeatedly using or reusing passwords, important systems are exposed to a variety of risks. It is possible to restrict the usage of password history policies, which stops users from reusing a password they have already used. Users are prohibited from reusing passwords that have been used previously after a specific number of attempts. Suppose a corporation decides that employees are not allowed to use the same password more than twenty times. Because it requires users to create new passwords each time they want to modify their existing passwords, the policy safeguards against password cracking in this way.

  1. Create a Password Audit Policy

To maintain track of any recent password changes, password regulations must be implemented by the firm. User password changes can be tracked down by system administrators using this policy. Because they make it easier to identify potentially dangerous password behaviors, password audits are critical. When passwords are changed several times every day, for example, this could indicate nefarious intent. Also useful is the implementation of a password audit policy, which allows administrators to identify account users who are not following best practices for password changing. Once such people have been identified, an organization can apply more rigorous password regulations to retain the highest levels of security.

  1. Secure End Devices

To reset passwords or to implement multi-factor authentication, end devices such as cellphones are used. (See Figure 1). Anyone with access can utilize end devices to hack or alter passwords if they are not properly protected. Password protection should be safeguarded by individual users ensuring that their end devices are sufficiently secure. When it comes to end devices that can be used to change or modify passwords used to safeguard secret accounts, strong passwords or alternative means such as biometrics should be utilized.

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Evangeline Christina is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Certified Ethical Hacker, Author at Cyberspecial.net. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter in a reputed news agency.