Safeguard Your Organization with Proper Password Management
by Rajender Singh - IT Security Consultant - Wednesday, 21 November 2007.
Remember historical passwords

Users have a tendency to repeat their passwords in many accounts and repeat it while being prompted to change passwords. The downside of keeping the same password for a long time can lead to the compromise of the user account. It is recommended that your IT security setup should prevent users from keeping the same passwords for at least 3 to 5 password resetting operations.

Show last successful login

One way to create transparency among the users regarding their account would be to give them details of when they last logged into the system or network. This would help them analyze their own account. At least 3 previously successful logins must be displayed with time, date and duration of login. If a user suspects the account has been misused by somebody, the user should log a security incident with the IT security team, and the IT security team should audit this breach.

Store passwords in encrypted form

If passwords are stored on the local disk or transferred over a network, they must be under secure communication channels. This would offer protection against password sniffing and cracking attacks.

Enable ticketing system for password resets

Today, many organizations manage password reset requests via ticketing systems. In a ticketing system, after getting authenticated, user should be in a position to log a ticket for password resets. Authentication is very important while filing such requests, to ensure that a malicious user cannot set up a reset request for an unauthorized account. Such tickets must be logged for further analysis and reference.

Practice password auditing

Automated tools or open source password crackers can be very useful in auditing passwords. An organization will face a major security risk if the accounts of senior associates or critical users have been compromised. Performing password audits will provide clarity on the efficiency of the password management policies.

Reporting and closure reports

Providing reports on weak passwords, password resets and change of password to users along with security managers is very useful. Reports have always added value in showing the existence of such incidents and tracking them to closure in order to make organization more secure and ready for audits.

Security awareness

Even with the best set of policies, there’s always a chance that passwords can be compromised. Sharing passwords with others, writing down complex passwords on a Post-It, social engineering and man-in-the-middle attacks are just some of the ‘password harvesting’ techniques. Sadly though, these issues are ignored by users and will lead to compromise of these strong passwords. It is important that users be aware of such techniques, therefore your IT security team should conduct regular user awareness sessions and include possible attacks and attack scenarios in order to make everyone aware of common pitfalls.

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