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Re: Education End Users about Passwords
From: steve.posick () advansol com
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 09:01:45 -0500 (EST)

  From my experience it's usually not remembering strong passwords that is
the problem, it's the policies.

  Many networks require strong passwords, good thing.  Too many have
policies that actually weaken their security by not taking
human nature into consideration.

  Example, if policy requires that the users must use a password that
consist of mixed case and at least one number and do not allow
the user to reuse passwords, you have actually encouraged your users to
write their passwords down.

  A solution is to allow the users to reuse the same password in a cyclic
fashion directly corresponding to the failed password account
lock settings.  In other words, let users remember 3 strong passwords,
lock the accounts if a wrong password has been entered 3
times.  This allows the user to remember their passwords and not have to
write them down to do it.

  The most important and most overlooked aspect of security is human
nature.  You can't fight it, you need to work with it.

  I wish I had a nickel for every time I've gone into and office with bad
password policies and said to the user "Your password is
somewhere around here", waiving my arms around their desk and chair in a
circular pattern and have them laughingly admit where it

1. Pick a sentence that has meaning for you and that you will remember.
       i.e. I work at cox today.
2. All consonants (or all vowels) become UPPERCASE characters.
3. All vowels (or all consonants as it is the opposite of rule 2) become
lower case characters.
4. Words like to and for become numbers.
5. Words like at and "and" become symbols (@ and &)
6. Add some character to the end like ! or #

Agreed to a certain extent. Consider the following however; Cracker is on
a machine that he needs some serious information say for corporate
esionage purposes, and the information is vital to him. What makes you
think an experienced cracker wouldn't have the correct type of dictionary
file? It's as simple as sed 's/a/4/g;s/A/4/g;s/e/3/g;s/E/3/g' and so

Substitutions? sed s'/i/\!/g', 's/^/./g', 's/$/./g' and so on.

Once they get this simple thing down, getting them to choose "strong"
passwords becomes infinitely easier, because they now have a mnemonic
to recall the password - the primary end user complaint about using
passwords.  If they can remember it, they are also a lot less likely to
the nefarious sticky note.  Then all you have to worry about is making
that they know not to give it out over the phone, which frankly, is the
easiest method of "cracking" a password.

2 cents,


Disagree, most people stick with familiarity (cognitive dissonance) and
you can try to explain the situation a million times over but the sad fact
is most people will stick to their guns. What can you do as an admin/sec
engineer? One thing that I think corps. should do is, create some form of
quarterly meeting with their employees to explain security issues, e.g.;

Post it notes
Bad passwords
Not locking out their machines
Paper based nightmares (using shredders)


Too much I could add and work calls.

J. Oquendo
GPG Key ID 0x51F9D78D
Fingerprint 2A48 BA18 1851 4C99 CA22 0619 DB63 F2F7 51F9 D78D


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