Understanding Password History

Posted by in CISSP, Security+, SSCP | 2 comments

When preparing for the CompTIA Security+ exam (and other security exams such as SSCP and CISSP) it’s important to understand the basics of password security.

The following figure shows the password policy available on a Windows system. You can see that it’s possible to set up a password policy to ensure that users create passwords with a minimum number of characters (Minimum Password Length), and to ensure that they change their password periodically (Maximum Password Age). However, two of the settings sometimes confuse people:

  • Enforce Password History
  • Minimum Password Age

These two settings work together to prevent users from reusing passwords.

Password Policy using Password History and Minimum Password Age

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Many users would rather use a single password forever because it’s easier to remember. A basic password policy with a Maximum Password Age setting forces users to change their password, but many users have tried to adapt by switching between two passwords. They’ll use one password until they’re forced to change, and then use the other password until they’re forced to change again, and continuously switch back and forth between these two passwords.

The Enforce Password History setting will remember previous passwords used and prevent users from reusing any passwords in the history. In the figure, this setting is configured to remember the last 24 passwords so users cannot reuse the same password until they’ve used 24 other passwords.


 

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A determined user may decide he simply wants to change his password repeatedly until he’s used up 24 passwords and can get back to his original password. If the Minimum Password Age is not configured, the user can do this in one sitting. However, if the Minimum Password Age is set to something like 1 day, then the user will not be able to change the password until a day has passed. Combined with a history of 24 passwords, it would take a user 25 work days to get back to their original password. This is enough to discourage most users from reusing the same policy

Password policies help ensure users create strong password policies, and these two settings help ensure they don’t circumvent the security.

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Need more time? You can easily renew for another 60 days at a significantly reduced price.

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Our online Security+ study materials are the perfect complement to the CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. They can also be used to help ensure you're ready no matter what study guide you're using.

This exam is expensive.

Make sure you're ready before exam day. 

Here's what you'll get:
  • All of the multiple-choice questions from the best-selling CompTIA Security+: Get Certified Get Ahead: SY0-501 Study Guide. See a demo here. All questions have full explanations so you'll know why the correct answers are correct and why the incorrect answers are incorrect.
  • Over 40 new multiple-choice questions we've added after publishing the study guide.
  • Over 30 performance-based questions. See a demo here.
  • All of the flashcards from the study guide. View them in any Web browser.
  • All of the audio from the study guide. Listen to a sample here.
  • Access to a free discount code for 10% off your Security+ voucher.

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60 Days Access

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent material Darril!! I found a simple error you should now about 3 or 4 paragraphs up.

    Concerning the phrase; “Maximum Password Age setting forces uses t0 change their password”
    “forces uses t0 change their password,” should be “forces users to change their password,”… correct spelling for uses/users and it appears when you enter the number zero in this editor, it defaults to the letter -ohh-, but it appears as the number zero in the final font…

    Interesting! thanks! jake (I’ll figure out the HTML below, at a later time)

    • Thanks Jake. I corrected it.

      By the way, adding HTML is often a sure way to get your comment into a spam folder.

      Darril

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