Vendors approve of NIST password draft

Standards group recommends removing periodic password change requirements

By Ryan Francis
May 10, 2017

Mike Kail, co-founder and CIO at Cybric, said behavioral biometrics, which analyzes and authenticates based on users’ physical interactions with their devices (finger pressure, typing speed, finger size) will eventually phase out the need for passwords completely.

"I feel that the updates in the new framework are a step in the right, tactical direction, especially the password rotation change requirements,” he said.

He would like to see more strategic approaches such as requiring a Cloud IdP/SSO provider and monitor anomalous activity. He also mentioned providing users with a password management tool.

Barry Shteiman, director of threat research at Exabeam, said this is a very positive change in the NIST standard. “Credential stuffing (using compromised credential DBs and replay them against authentication mechanisms) has become very common, especially with breach information being sold or sometimes published online.”

Richard Henderson, global security strategist at Absolute believes this change also makes dictionary and rainbow attacks less useful to test credentials. “Sadly, we’ve lived through many years of more and more confusing and contradictory advice when it comes to creating and using passwords, and that has led to a hodge-podge of implementations and confusion among regular internet users.”

“When you add to this the simple notion that there are still a lot of sites out there with terrible password policies or even worse, still storing passwords in plaintext, are we really surprised that people’s habits lead to widespread password reuse or weak passwords?,” Henderson pondered.

He said the most important piece of advice is continual scan and intake of known vulnerable and stolen password lists to compare against. “Beyond the idea of potentially minimizing the risk of password reuse and creating weaker passwords, it can alert companies to the potential of a breach of one of their users. If a password like 247KangarooKiwi! shows up on a compromised list somewhere, and that’s a password one of your users uses, it’s an awful large red flag to take a look at their corporate or work endpoint devices and look for evidence of compromise.”

NIST’s recommendation to allow the full ASCII and Unicode keyspaces is also good, as it increases the keyspace for attackers using brute forcing attempts to break, he said.

Troy Gill, manager of security research at AppRiver, remembers hearing frequently that passwords were dead. “New authentication technologies have come a long way in the past decade. However, the massive surge in online service with the majority of those services implementing passwords is leading to a bit of a password critical mass,” he said.

He noted that these recommendations also are largely in sync with guidelines laid out last year by the UK’s NCSC.

“In a perfect world, it would be a great idea to require passwords to be changed every few months. But as humans we have inherent limitations with our ‘wetware’ that can prevent most of us from doing what we know is most secure. Instead, we substitute something the meets the minimum requirements and can be managed with the most ease,” he said. “Let’s face it, there are a staggering number of unique passwords that people are required to remember today, with most requiring frequent changes that also have to be memorized.

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