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Password Policy



Passwords are an important aspect of computer security. A poorly chosen password may result in unauthorized access and/or exploitation of the Muskingum Watershed’s resources. All users, including contractors and vendors with access to the Muskingum Watershed systems, are responsible for taking the appropriate steps, as outlined below, to select and secure their passwords.

The purpose of this policy is to establish a standard for creation of strong passwords, the protection of those passwords, and the frequency of change.

The scope of this policy includes all personnel who have or are responsible for an account (or any form of access that supports or requires a password) on any system that resides at any the Muskingum Watershed facility, has access to the Muskingum Watershed network, or stores any Muskingum Watershed information.


Password Creation

  • All user-level and system-level passwords must conform to the Password Construction Guidelines.
  • Users must not use the same password for Muskingum Watershed accounts as for other non-Muskingum Watershed access (for example, personal e-mail account, option trading, benefits, and so on).
  • Where possible, users must not use the same password for various Muskingum Watershed access needs.


Password Change

  • All system-level administrator passwords must be changed on at least a quarterly basis (90 days).
  • All user-level passwords (for example, email, web, desktop computer, and so on) must be changed at least every six months. The recommended change interval is every four months.
  • Passwords may not be the same as the previous four passwords.
  • Password cracking or guessing may be performed on a periodic or random basis by the Information Systems / Information Technology (IS/IT) department or its delegates. If a password is guessed or cracked during one of these scans, the user will be required to change it to be in compliance with the Password Construction Guidelines.

Password Protection

  • Passwords must not be shared with anyone. All passwords are to be treated as sensitive, confidential Muskingum Watershed information.
  • Passwords must not be inserted into email messages, or other forms of electronic communication.
  • Passwords must not be revealed over the phone to anyone.
  • Do not reveal a password on questionnaires or security forms.
  • Do not hint at the format of a password (for example, “my family name”).
  • Do not share Muskingum Watershed passwords with anyone, including administrative assistants, secretaries, managers, co-workers while on vacation, and family members.
  • Do not write passwords down and store them anywhere in your office. Do not store passwords in a file on a computer system or mobile devices (phone, tablet) without encryption. Contact the Information Systems / Information Technology (IS/IT) department with any questions regarding password list encryption.
  • Do not use the “Remember Password” feature of applications (for example, web browsers).
  • Any user suspecting that his/her password may have been compromised must report the incident and change all passwords.
  • Password Management software is permitted with approved installation and training.


Application Development

Application developers must ensure that their programs contain the following security precautions:

  • Applications must support authentication of individual users, not groups.
  • Applications must not store passwords in clear text or in any easily reversible form.
  • Applications must not transmit passwords in clear text over the network.


Use of Passwords and Passphrases

Passphrases are not the same as passwords. A passphrase is a longer version of a password and is, therefore, more secure. A passphrase is typically composed of multiple words. Because of this, a passphrase is more secure against “dictionary attacks.” A good passphrase is relatively long and contains a combination of upper and lowercase letters and numeric and punctuation characters.

For example:

1DogBalloonGrass? This is an example. DO NOT USE!

All of the rules above that apply to passwords apply to passphrases.


Policy Compliance

Compliance Measurement

The IS/IT department will verify compliance with this policy through various methods, including but not limited to, periodic walk-through, business tool reports, and internal and external audits.



Any exception to the policy must be approved by the IS/IT department in advance.



An employee found to have violated this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.


Password Construction Best Practices


Passwords are a critical component of information security. Passwords serve to protect user accounts; however, a poorly constructed password may result in the compromise of individual systems, data, or the Muskingum Watershed network. This guideline provides best practices for creating secure passwords.

The purpose of this guidelines is to provide best practices for the creation of strong passwords.

This guideline applies to employees, contractors, consultants, temporary and other workers at the Muskingum Watershed, including all personnel affiliated with third parties. This guideline applies to all passwords including but not limited to user-level accounts, system-level administrator accounts, web accounts, e-mail accounts, and network hardware logins (for example, routers and switches).



A passphrase is similar to a password in use; however, it is relatively long and constructed of multiple words, which provides greater security against dictionary attacks. Strong passphrases should follow the general password construction guidelines to include at least 14 characters including upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.


Statement of Guidelines

All passwords should meet or exceed the following guidelines

Passwords must have the following characteristics:

  • Contain at least 14 alphanumeric characters.
  • Contain both upper and lower case letters.
  • Contain at least one number (for example, 0-9).
  • Contain at least one special character (for example,!$%^&*()_+|~-=`{}[]:”;'<>?,/).
  • Not the same as the previous four passwords used.

Poor, or weak, passwords have the following characteristics:

  • Contain less than eight characters.
  • Can be found in a dictionary, including foreign language, or exist in a language slang, dialect, or jargon.
  • Contain personal information such as birthdates, addresses, phone numbers, or names of family members, pets, friends, and fantasy characters.
  • Contain work-related information such as building names, system commands, sites, companies, hardware, or software.
  • Contain number patterns such as aaabbb, qwerty, zyxwvuts, or 123321.
  • Contain common words spelled backward, or preceded or followed by a number (for example, terces, secret1 or 1secret).
  • Are some version of “Welcome123” “Password123” “Changeme123”

You should never write down a password. Instead, try to create passwords that you can remember easily. One way to do this is create a password based on a song title, affirmation, or other phrase.

Password Management software is also permitted with approved installation and training.


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