Former NIST Official Regrets Issuing Password Guidance
Bill Burr admits security advice actually created more vulnerable passwords.
An article review.
If you’ve ever angrily questioned some seemingly arbitrary rule when creating a new password, there is some vindication for you: the former government official whose password security suggestions became the basis for many organization’s own standards now says he regrets writing the document.
These regrets came to light in a recent article, which came to us by way of Wes Pollard at Home Bank. In the article, former NIST Manager Bill Burr admitted his 2003 NIST Special Publication led to users taking “lazy shortcuts” and using predictable methods when creating passwords, making them easier to crack.
Burr also now disagrees with his recommendation to have passwords expire after 90 days–something that we have spoken about here on multiple occasions!
Now, instead of dancing on the grave of the aging myth that was included in the original NIST Special Publication 800-63, let’s address the still confusing issue of password make-up. Bill Burr also regrets that fact that many people are now using “predictable phonetics” to make their passwords strong. Many of you who have received training from infotex may think that we too regret our advice, which USED to mirror the strong password makeup suggestions of the NIST publication.
While we do admit that we too suggested using @ for a and $ for s, that was more than a decade ago. We long ago changed our approach, suggesting that you use sentences longer than 14 characters in length, use disparate words I your sentences, mix up your themes, etc. We still teach the six factor makeup, and still believe in it, whenever you can’t use long sentences of disparate words. And we’d rather users adopt the practices pushed in the NIST guidance than no practice at all.
So yes, 11 years ago we agreed with NIST guidance, but since we have been trying to get the world to see that the best password is a sentence of disparate words. For example: Original USED admit decade could be a password, all based on words used in this paragraph. The infotex policy is still to throw a password that is “strong” as defined in the original NIST guidance. Thus, in order for the above password to comply with infotex policy, we’d need to add an eight character “strong” password in there somewhere, like Original USED admit decade $tr0ng3r! (Yes, we’re using a $ for an s, a zero for the oh, and a 3 for the e. But we still maintain the likelihood of you guessing that, even if you KNEW it was a phonetic of “stronger,” is very, very low.
Original article by Nick Statt, writing for The Verge.