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Publishing password rules
From: Geoff Nathan <geoffnathan () WAYNE EDU>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2008 10:46:11 -0400

A week or so ago I asked for opinions on whether publishing strong password standards constituted a security risk.  The 
background for this is that we have just instituted increased strength requirements (minimum eight characters, at least 
one upper case and at least one numeral, no obvious matches--dictionary, accessID etc.)  We’ve now had to back off a 
little because of *&#$%&!! Oracle limitations that forbid non-alphanumeric characters (well, most of them).  
As part of this we’ve been debating whether we should publish the rules or let users play twenty questions.  I 
personally favor publishing the requirements behind some authentication wall, such as the password change page.  By a 
large majority (12-3) the folks who responded to my question agreed.  Several pointed out that eight characters was 
probably too weak to make any difference, and, in general I agree, but bumping that number up would not fly here at the 
moment, especially given a six-month expiry cycle.
Many thanks to the following for the responses:

Valdis Kletnieks
Roger Safian
Steven Alexander
Vijaya Sastry
Adam Nave
Tim Doty
Alex Everett
Bill Terry
Bob Bayn
Brian Basgen
Jack Suess
Conor McGrath
Jim Rizzo
Gary Dobbins
Joel Rosenblatt

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Faculty Liaison, C&IT
and Associate Professor, Linguistics Program
+1 (313) 577-1259 (C&IT)
+1 (313) 577-8621 (English/Linguistics)

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