Talking Passwords

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Talking Passwords

what is this page for?

The idea of the page is to address password issues around universal passwords. Specifically;

A: What considerations are there for password policies? What are your policies? (dont use your company name)

B: Ideas for challenge/response questions and the potential downfall of these solutions?

C: Implementation considerations

I hope it will be of use for people thinking of implementing universal passwords, like me!

what is not for

This is not a support site either cool solutions or the forums should be used for that purpose

who started it

Me --Pfallon 04:19, 25 May 2005 (MDT), I've never made a Wiki before, or a webpage for that matter. I started it as i wanted to contribute to Novell’s Wiki, learn how they are used and answer the questions that this page poses. feel free to reformat, add to and remove content as you see fit as long as we keep to what the page is for it doesn’t matter.

how to use the page

not sure yet... please use and edit the discussion page as well as the article page, there is good content on both!


At some-Cola UK company we are about to roll out universal passwords but to plagiarise other people’s ideas on passwords.

Our current policy is 6 characters, 42 days reset, no duplicates and 6 grace logins

Now we can be clever with advanced universal password rules we want to provide a better level of password security without creating more helpdesk calls due to over complex policies.

So we don’t want a 26 character, dictionary proof password with at least 7 forms of punctuation 3 capital letters and 5 digits that needs to change daily and never repeat, ever.

Nor do we want people to use cola as their password.

Q: What is the best mix of security and complexity, what is your policy?

We want to use self service password resets, by getting users to answer a set of questions that can be used to reset all passwords within the meta-directory. However, most suggestions I’ve had are either; Obscure i.e. what did you have for lunch on January 12 1982 or Obvious i.e. what colour is your hair?

Q: What are good questions to ask users, what you do you ask them?

Thanks in-advance

I would recommend a mix of 4 or 5 questions (make 2 out 5 or 3 out of 5 the required) this should allow for a broad enough mix that everyone should be able to use without trying to find the "one magic question" that works on everyone/everywhere/everytime (although if someone out there has found ... PLEASE POST IT... heh heh). The best one's that I've ever seen are some of the popular standbys

  - What's your mother's name ? (Leaving it somewhat nondescript 
    allows folks to use last, middle, first, even MOM or Mother)
  - Where were you born/raised ? (Everyone should know one of the 
    two. And if the answer text is not too bound by logic {ie just 
    match the text}, you could even go with the nonsensical "right 
    next to my mother")
  - What was your first pet ? (Before everyone jumps in with "Not 
    everyone has had a pet" remember that it's a mix, you have to 
    choose 3 out of 5 to answer. So skip this one or answer {as I've 
    seen some users do} with "a rock" or "tv")

Mix these with at least one free form or "blank" question that's made up by (and answered by) the user. (I admit this can sometimes be a two edged sword, you would NOT beleive how many will use a profanity of some sort. But I still think it outweighs the downside.)

As far as actual passwords go, I usually recommend to our end users that they use a meaningful phrase (without the spaces or punctuation). Usually when it's a legitimate phrase, they can remember something longer than "just a password". Some of the better ones I've heard of are "mysonis12", "mysonjimmygoestops12", "iwantaraise", etc. I would caution your users about using profanity though, I was once working on a machine and needed to signon as the user to help diagnose the issue. The young lady turned every color red as she told me her password, a particulary profane phrase with her boss' name in it as the subject. Hope this helps.


Pass Phrases vs. Passwords

Discussion on writing down your password..

sites which allow you to find out information that could be used to answer challenge question, Beware!

Forgotten Password question ideas (Challenge Response)

Questions shouldn't be dependant on time, i.e. talk about current things (cars pets etc) or last times (last holiday, last car) as these change with time and the challenges don’t. Questions should also be answerable by all where possible to avoid answers of "N/A".

In an office situation it is likely you share things about yourself with your colleagues and they generally can see what you look like from a staff directory, and what is on your desk if they so wish so questions should be tailored to protect against this in some way.

Good questions

These are questions i cant find fault with, if you disagree feel free to edit the wiki!

What is your favourite colour?

If you could meet someone from history, who would it be?

Where did you go on your first holiday?

What is your least favourite film of all time?

What is your fathers first name?

Name a memorable place

Name a memorable date

Where were you born?

Questionable questions

These type of questions may be fine for some enviroments but could cause problems in others. On the other hand they could just be plain dumb.

Question potential issue
What is your shoe size? too easy to guess as male shoe size range is small that many options? / shoe's left in the gym
What is your inside leg measurement? do most people know this?

What is your payroll id? written on your staff ID card?
What is your mortgage/rent payment per month? too personal?
What colour are your partner's eyes? not everyone has a partner!
What is your mother's maiden name? various Geneology databases hold lists of marrages and and maiden names (perhaps being a little paranoid here?)
What is your favourite beverage? there is only one answer in my company, may be ok in yours? :)
What was your high school mascot? Is this an American thing? if so could be fine for a US workforce
What was the name of your first pet? not everyone has or has had a pet (believe it or not)
What are the last 4 digits of your social security number? Another American thing? if so could be fine for a US workforce, or wored to include another companies equivilent
What is your Fathers middle name? Not all have a middle name and middle names often becomes sons first name

What was your first car/bike? Not all had a car or bike
What is the third letter of your home address(street name)? This can change in time
How long have you lived at your current address? This changes in line with the time!
Where was youe last holiday destination? Changes with time and is talked about in the office
what is your favourite sports team? talked about, everywhere
Favourite Food? there is only one answer in my company, may be ok in yours? :)
How many children do you have? not all of us have children and most poeple have 2.2 anyway