The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Digital Identity Guidelines (NIST) recommend rejecting passwords used for online guessing attacks and also eliminating periodic password expiration- unless the password is compromised. While these requirements make sense, given current cybersecurity threats, they don’t precisely fit historic password policies. NIST has recommended new password policy guidelines for Active Directory that can help.
But what does this shift entail, and why is it imperative for organizations to adapt? This comprehensive article will cover NIST’s latest password requirements, exploring how these can be seamlessly integrated into your Active Directory framework to forge a more resilient and effective password policy.
We’ll explore the essential elements of these modern guidelines and illustrate how Enzoic for Active Directory enables effortless alignment with NIST standards through a streamlined, one-click configuration.
Password policies needed to change to match the modern threat landscape. Traditionally, we insisted on combining various character types, believing this approach fostered “strong passwords”. Yet, an examination of real-world passwords from data breaches revealed a predictable pattern: individuals often modify familiar words with symbols and numbers, or alter letters, merely to comply with stringent password guidelines. This practice hardly promoted randomness.
Further research into password expiration mandates revealed a similar trend. While frequent password changes were mandated, they inadvertently led users to opt for minor, predictable updates instead of devising truly unique passwords. Cybercriminals quickly caught on to these common modification strategies, exploiting the prevalence of weak passwords.
Ultimately, these conventional password strategies, though well-intentioned, inadvertently simplified the task for hackers while complicating password creation and recall for legitimate users.
We acknowledged that cybercriminals are leveraging historical data breaches and common password variations to their advantage. The countermeasure lies in recognizing these patterns and employing similar strategies for defense. This modern methodology depends on continuously updating lists of known breached passwords and utilizing insights gleaned from password-cracking dictionaries. However, this approach doesn’t align well with previous password policies and traditional password policy tools.
Formerly, a straightforward software algorithm could determine the strength of a password based on its mix of various character types, and such a password would consistently be deemed strong. Yet, contemporary password policies need the capability to swiftly cross-reference extensive databases of compromised passwords. Even more crucial is their ability to adapt to the evolving threat landscape, where a password considered secure today might become vulnerable following a new data breach.
These adjustments represent considerable shifts for system administrators and the tools they use to formulate password policies.
While not every organization must comply with NIST Password Guidelines, they are are seen as the foundation for many security frameworks. So, what does a modern password policy look like?
The guidelines are given in NIST SP 800-63B.
NIST is explicit that password policies SHOULD NOT require composition rules (i.e., mixtures of characters), and they SHALL compare to a list that includes passwords from previous breaches.
The NIST Special Publication 800-63B FAQ elaborates by saying it is essential to discourage the use of very common passwords, particularly those that are most likely to be tried in an online password-guessing cyberattack.
The corresponding NIST password policy must:
These requirements reflect the current password policy best practices for hardening the password layer. NIST makes it clear that a proper authentication strategy involves more than one layer and that the requirements above should be met whenever the password layer is included.
Many old-school password security tools provide limited implementation options for the NIST password requirements. They often bolt -on static blacklists that are infrequently updated. They have limited options beyond complex algorithm rules and typically have somewhat complicated configuration steps that are not relevant to modern password policies.
By contrast, Enzoic for Active Directory provides a clean user interface. For organizations looking to satisfy the NIST requirements above, a single checkbox can apply all of the password policy options above. Once enabled, a dashboard component can highlight if settings are changed so that organizations are able to easily check if they are complying with NIST. Learn more about One-Click NIST Password Standard Compliance.
Enzoic for Active Directory was specifically designed for modern password policy requirements. It works together with Enzoic’s proprietary threat research services. The blacklist database that powers Enzoic for Active Directory is updated continuously with the latest breach data, and passwords are rescanned daily. When users’ passwords are found to be vulnerable, the remediation steps are fully automated.
Numerous security measures often impose extra responsibilities on an organization. Yet, implementing a NIST password policy yields a contrasting effect. It enhances the user experience through the removal of intricate password requirements and the minimization of regular password changes. This approach also cuts down on administrative expenses by decreasing the volume of password reset requests and integrating automated solutions for password issues. Additionally, it bolsters security by adhering to contemporary industry guidelines for password management.