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This policy explains the standard for creation of strong passwords, the protection of those passwords, and the frequency of change.

Password Complexity Policy

The main reason e-mail accounts get compromised is that people use easy to guess passwords. Unauthorized users then use your account to send out thousands of SPAM e-mail messages. This causes e-mail service providers to blacklist the College and prevent e-mail from being sent from or to College e-mail accounts. As a result, email services are interrupted, sometimes for several hours until the problem can be rectified. This is a very serious matter and it is very difficult to get removed from the blacklists.

Saint Rose Password Policy

1.0 Overview

Passwords are an important aspect of computer and network security. They are the front line of protection for user accounts. A poorly chosen password may result in the compromise of The College of Saint Rose’s (College) entire network or allow unauthorized access to systems or data. As such, all College employees (including contractors and vendors with access to College 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 at any College facility, has access to the College network, or stores any non-public College information.

4.0 Policy

4.1 General

Passwords must follow the password complexity requirements:

  • The password needs to be at least eight characters
  • The password must include at least one letter, one number and one special character (, !@#$%^&*()_+|~-=\`{}[]:”;'<>?,./)
  • Note additional password complexity suggestions under Guidelines below.
  • All user-level passwords (e.g., email, web, desktop computer, etc.) must be changed at least every 180 days. The recommended change interval is every two months.
  • The same password cannot be used within twelve password resets.
  • New passwords will need to age at least one day before they can be changed again.
  • If passwords are saved in written or printed format, they must be stored in a locked and secure location.
  • Passwords must not be posted in plain sight or hidden under a keyboard, under a desk blotter or in an unlocked desk drawer.
  • Whenever a password protected device or system is left unattended, it should be logged off either manually or automatically and require the user to log on again
  • Passwords must not be inserted into email messages or other forms of electronic communication.
  • Passwords must be kept confidential.
  • All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the guidelines described below.
  • When possible and practical, systems will be set to disable an account after three unsuccessful attempts to log on. The account will be locked out for a minimum of fifteen minutes.
  • Passwords should never be embedded or hard-coded in applications, systems or hardware.
  • Users will be required to sign a statement prohibiting disclosure of passwords.

4.2 Guidelines

A. General Password Construction Guidelines

Passwords are used for various purposes at the College. Some of the more common uses include: user level accounts, web accounts, email accounts, screen saver protection, voicemail password, and local router logins. Since very few systems have support for one-time tokens (i.e., dynamic passwords which are only used once), everyone should be aware of how to select strong passwords.

The College of Saint Rose password complexity requirements:

  1. The password needs to be at least eight characters
  2. The password must include at least one letter, one number and one special character (, !@#$%^&*()_+|~-=\`{}[]:”;'<>?,./)

Password complexity suggestions:

  1. The password should contain both upper and lower case characters (e.g., a-z, A-Z)
  2. The password should not be based on personal information, names of family, pets, etc
  3. The words “The College of Saint Rose “, “strose”, “saintrose” or any derivation should not be used
  4. 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

Do not use the same password for College accounts as for other non-College access (e.g., personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, etc.). Where possible, do not use the same password for various College access needs. For example, select one password for the Engineering systems and a separate password for IT systems. Also, select a separate password to be used for an NT account and a UNIX account.

Do not share College passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, Confidential College information.

Here is a list of ” don’ts”:

  • Don’t reveal a password over the phone to ANYONE, EVER!
  • Don’t reveal a password in an email message
  • Don’t reveal a password to the boss
  • Don’t talk about a password in front of others
  • Don’t hint at the format of a password (e.g., “my family name”)
  • Don’t reveal a password on questionnaires or security forms
  • Don’t share a password with anyone including coworkers, friends or family members

If someone demands a password, refer them to this document or have them call someone in the ITS Department.

Do not use the “Remember Password” feature of applications (e.g., Eudora, Outlook, Netscape Messenger).

Again, do not write passwords down and store them anywhere in your office without encryption or obfuscation. Do not store passwords in a file on ANY computer system (including Palm Pilots or similar devices) without encryption.

Change passwords at least once every six months (except system-level passwords which must be changed quarterly). The recommended change interval is every four months. (Revisit)

If an account or password is suspected to have been compromised, report the incident to ITS and change all passwords.

If ITS has reasonable cause to believe that a password or system has been compromised, it will change the password and/or otherwise disable the account.

Password cracking or guessing may be performed on a periodic or random basis by ITS or its delegates. If a password is guessed or cracked during one of these scans, the user will be required to change it.

C. Application Development Standards

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

  • should support authentication of individual users, not groups.
  • should not store passwords in clear text or in any easily reversible form.
  • should 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.
  • should support TACACS+ , RADIUS and/or X.509 with LDAP security retrieval, wherever possible.

D. Passphrases

Passphrases are generally used for public/private key authentication. A public/private key system defines a mathematical relationship between the public key that is known by all, and the private key, that is known only to the user. Without the passphrase to “unlock” the private key, the user cannot gain access.

Passphrases are not the same as passwords. A passphrase is a longer version of a password and is, therefore, more secure. A passphrase is typically composed of multiple words. Because of this, a passphrase is more secure against “dictionary attacks.”

A good passphrase is relatively long and contains a combination of upper and lowercase letters and numeric and punctuation characters. An example of a good passphrase:


All of the rules above that apply to passwords apply to passphrases.

5.0 Enforcement

Any employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.