CAMPUS TECHNOLOGY POLICIES
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 Georgia College & State
University's (GCSU) entire network. As such, all GCSU personnel (including contractors and
vendors with access to Georgia College systems) are responsible for taking the appropriate steps,
as outlined below, to select and secure their passwords.
• All system-level passwords (e.g., root, enable, NT admin, application administration
accounts, etc.) must be changed on at least a quarterly basis.
• All production system-level passwords must be part of the Information Security
administered global password management database.
• 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.
• User accounts that have system-level privileges granted through group memberships
or programs such as "sudo" must have a unique password from all other accounts held
by that user.
• Passwords must not be inserted into email messages or other forms of electronic
• 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).
• All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the guidelines described
Poor, weak passwords have the following characteristics and shall not be used:
• The password contains less than eight characters
• The password is a word found in a dictionary (English or foreign)
The password is a common usage word such as:
• Names of family, pets, friends, co-workers, fantasy characters, etc.
• Computer terms and names, commands, sites, companies, hardware, software.
• The words "<Company Name>", "sanjose", "sanfran" or any derivation.
• Birthdays and other personal information such as addresses and phone numbers.
• Word or number patterns like aaabbb, qwerty, zyxwvuts, 123321, etc.
• Any of the above spelled backwards.
• Any of the above preceded or followed by a digit (e.g., secret1, 1secret)
Strong passwords have the following characteristics and shall be used where applicable:
• Contain both upper and lower case characters (e.g., a-z, A-Z)
• Have digits and punctuation characters as well as letters e.g., 0-9,
• Are at least eight alphanumeric characters long.
• Are not a word in any language, slang, dialect, jargon, etc.
• Are not based on personal information, names of family, etc.
• Passwords should never be written down or stored on-line. 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 any of these examples as passwords!
PASSWORD PROTECTION STANDARDS AND PROHIBITTED ACTIONS
Users shall not use the same password for GCSU accounts as for other non-GCSU access (e.g.,
personal ISP account, option trading, benefits, etc.). Where possible, don't use the same password
for various GCSU 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.
Users shall not share GCSU passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants or
secretaries. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, Confidential GCSU information.
Prohibited activities shall include:
• Revealing a password over the phone.
• Revealing a password in an email message.
• Revealing a password to the boss.
• Talking about a password in front of others.
• Hinting at the format of a password (e.g., "my family name").
• Revealing a password on questionnaires or security forms.
• Sharing a password with family members.
• Revealing a password to co-workers while on vacation.
If someone demands a password, refer them to this document or have them call someone in the
Department of Information Technology (IT).
Do not use the "Remember Password" feature of applications (e.g., Xtender, Outlook, Netscape
Again, do not write passwords down and store them anywhere in your office. Do not store
passwords in a file on ANY computer system (including Palm Pilots or similar devices) without
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.
If an account or password is suspected to have been compromised, report the incident to SERVE
and change all passwords.
Password cracking or guessing may be performed on a periodic or random basis by the Chief
Information Officer. If a password is guessed or cracked during one of these scans, the user will be
required to change it.
APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT STANDARDS
Application developers must ensure their programs contain the following security precautions.
• 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,
USE OF PASSWORDS AND PASSPHRASES FOR REMOTE ACCESS USERS
Access to the GCSU Networks via remote access is to be controlled using either a one-time
password authentication or a public/private key system with a strong passphrase.
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.