Passwords are an important aspect of computer security. They are the front line of protection for user accounts. A poorly chosen password may result in the compromise of Southern Miss's entire corporate network. As such, all Southern Miss employees (including contractors and vendors with access to Southern Miss systems) are responsible for taking the appropriate steps, as outlined below, to select and secure their passwords.
Reason for Policy/Purpose
This policy is required for the effective communication of university policies regarding the standard for creation of strong passwords, the protection of those passwords, and the frequency of change.
Who Needs to Know This Policy
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 Southern Miss facility, has access to the Southern Miss network, or stores any non-public Southern Miss information.
Website Address for this Policy
1.1 All system-level passwords (e.g., root, enable, NT admin, application administration accounts, etc.) must be changed on at least a quarterly basis.
1.2 All production system-level passwords must be part of the Information Security administered global password management database.
1.3 All user-level passwords (e.g., email, web, desktop computer, etc.) must be changed at least every six months. The recommended change interval is every four months.
1.4 User accounts that have system-level privileges granted through group memberships must have a unique password from all other accounts held by that user.
1.5 Passwords must not be inserted into email messages or other forms of electronic communication.
1.6 Where SNMP is used, the community strings must be defined as something other than the standard defaults of "public," "private" and "system" and must be different from the passwords used to log in interactively. A keyed hash must be used where available (e.g., SNMPv2).
1.7 All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the guidelines described below.
2.0 GENERAL PASSWORD CONSTRUCTION GUIDELINES
Passwords are used for various purposes at Southern Miss. 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.
2.1 Strong passwords have the following characteristics:
2.2 Poor, weak passwords have the following characteristics:
NOTE: Do not use either of these examples as passwords!
3.0 PASSWORD PROTECTION STANDARDS
3.1 Do not use the same password for Southern Miss accounts as for other non-Southern Miss access (e.g., personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, etc.).
3.2 Where possible, don't use the same password for various Southern Miss 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.
3.3 Do not share Southern Miss passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, Confidential Southern Miss information.
3.6 Password cracking or guessing may be performed on a periodic or random basis by Information Security or its delegates. If a password is guessed or cracked during one of these scans, the user will be required to change it.
4.0 APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS
Any employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.
The Chief Information Officer is responsible for the review of this policy every four years (or whenever circumstances require immediate review).
Amendments: Month, Day, Year – summary of changes