TLDR: We already require two-factor authentication for some users. I'm hashing, salting, and doing things to encourage long passphrases. I'm not interested in the merits of password complexity rules in general. Some of this is required by law, and some of it is required by the customer. My question is fairly narrow: Should I detect leetspeak passwords such as Tr0ub4dor&3 as being a dictionary word, and therefore fail passwords that primarily consist of a single dictionary word (even if leeted). Multiple word passphrases are always accepted regardless of leetness or not, this is only a question about those who choose to use more traditional short passwords.
I am the lead developer for an upcoming government website which will expose sensitive personal information (criminal history, SSNs, etc. primarily). The website will be consumed by the general public, for doing background checks on employees, etc.
On the backend, I'm storing the passwords hashed with PBKDF2 salted on a per-user basis with very high iterations, so brute force hashing attacks against stronger passwords are not realistic (currently), and the website locks the user out for 10 min after five bad tries, so you can't brute force really that way either.
I'm getting some pushback from my customer/partners about the severity of the password rules I have implemented.
Obviously I want people to use 16-20+ char passphrases, but this is a slow moving bureaucracy. So in addition to allowing/encouraging those good passwords, I have to allow some shorter "hard" passwords. I'm just trying to limit our exposure.
In particular the "no dictionary word" requirement is causing people frustration, as I disallow the classic leetspeak passwords such as XKCD's famous Tr0ub4dor&3. (For those curious, I run the proposed password through a leetspeak permutation translator (including dropping the char) and then compare each permutation against a dictionary)
Am I being too severe? I am a big proponent of "Avids rule of usability" - Security at the expense of usability comes at the expense of security. But in this case I think it's more an issue of habit/education. I allow diceware/readable passphrase passwords with no restrictions, only the "normal" passwords get the stronger requirements. XKCD #936: Short complex password, or long dictionary passphrase?
Should I try to solve this with just better UI help? Should I stick to my guns? The multiple recent high-profile hacks, especially ones that exposed passwords makes me think I'm in the right, but I also don't want to make things stupid for no reason. Since I'm protected from brute force attacks fairly well (I think/hope), is this unnecessary complexity? Or just good defense in depth?
For those that can't grok passphrases or truly random passwords the "two words plus num/symbols" passwords seem to be both easy enough, and at least harder to hack, if I can get people to read the instructions...
- Better password hints/displayed more prominently (too subjective?)
- Better strength meter (something based on zxcvbn? - would fail the dictionary words on the client side rather than after a submit)
- Disallow all "short" passwords, force people to use only passphrases, which makes the rules simpler?
- "make me a password" button that generates a passphrase for them and makes them copy it into the password fields
- Give up and let the leetspeek passwords through?
Heres what I currently have in my password instructions/rules:
16 character or longer passphrase (unlimited max)
At least eight characters
- Contain three of the following
- Numbers 0123456789
- Symbols !@#$%^&*()_-+=,./<>?;:'"
- Not based on a dictionary word
- Not your username
Examples of passwords that won't be accepted
- Troubador (Single dictionary word)
- Troubador&3 (Single dictionary word plus numbers and symbols)
- Tr0ub4dor&3 (Based on single dictionary word)
- 12345678 (Does not contain 3/4 character types)
- abcdefgh (Does not contain 3/4 character types)
- ABCDEFGH (Does not contain 3/4 character types)
- ABCdefgh (Does not contain 3/4 character types)
- ABC@#$%! (Does not contain 3/4 character types)
- ab12CD (Too Short)
Examples of passwords that will be accepted (do not use any of these passwords):
- correct horse battery staple (Diceware password)
- should floating things fashion the mandate (Readable passphrase - link to makemeapassword.org)
- GoodPassword4! (multiple words, upper, lower, numbers, symbols)
- Yyqlzka6IAGMyoZPAGpP (random string using uppercase, lowercase, and numbers)