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At my current company, the IT Risk team decided to ensure root passwords of about 90 systems by the following conventional method:

  1. The length of each password must be 16 characters, where they input 8 characters while the IT Infra team give the remaining ones.
  2. Each team will print the partial password on paper and will seal it by envelope, so there are two envelopes to combine the whole password for each account
  3. The authorized representatives will sign and seal envelopes. Unless there is approval from IT Security Officer, these envelopes cannot be unsealed or disclosed to anyone.

My question is that does this way seem so manual and time-consuming? I suggested using password manager, but no one shared the same idea.

  • The downside of a password manager is it can be attacked remotely. With a password on paper, an attacker will need to physically open and read it (assuming it's only available on that paper). – user Nov 15 '19 at 15:15
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    @user ... only if the password manager is online ... – schroeder Nov 15 '19 at 15:31
  • Different companies need to find their own balance between security and usability. In essence, you think that they have emphasized security too much at the cost of usability. That may be a reasonable view to hold, but the trouble is that your IT team obviously thinks this is a reasonable balance. As a result, if you're looking for answers that say, "Yeah, this is a bad idea", you're going to be disappointed. No one else can really say, "your IT team has made a bad idea". This is, in general, more a matter of opinion. – Conor Mancone Nov 15 '19 at 15:33
  • I say this to point out the proper direction to take. If you disagree with their decision you need to understand why they made it, so you can propose an alternate solution properly. "This is too much of a pain" won't convince anyone. You have to be able to say, "Solution X will meet your security requirements and also be more convenient for users". – Conor Mancone Nov 15 '19 at 15:37
  • Your proposal is not good. The current procedure is sound and should remain so. – Overmind Nov 20 '19 at 6:44
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This is not unusual for core passwords. Storing them in a digital password manager means that the password manager now has a password that needs to be protected. What do you do with that? Often through a paper process like you described. This type of paper process is normal.

What is unusual is the number of systems involved. A paper process works for a handful of core passwords.

What you might want to suggest, instead of a password manager, is a Privileged Access Manager tool. This will manage root and admin passwords in a variety of useful ways, like changing them every time they are used, etc.

  • I totally agree with your idea. Btw, PAM seems a good alternative for this situation. – sanba06c Nov 16 '19 at 4:40
  • Also this technique is used for emergency passwords, when the day to day IAM system is not functional. – Martin Weil Nov 18 '19 at 8:18

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