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Darton State College Technology Services Division | Passwords & Expiration

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Frequently Asked Questions

Passwords and Expiration

The Need For Strong Passwords

Hackers are continually probing for vulnerable accounts, accounts which can then be used as a stepping stone for launching attacks on other accounts or systems. Thus, even if your account doesn't have anything particularly private or sensitive on it, access to your account represents an extremely valuable "foot in the door" to the bad guys. Strong passwords play a key role in helping keep those cyber intruders out.

Why do passwords need to be strong?

One approach hackers use is a so-called "dictionary attack," trying one word after another with the expectation that users at many sites will pick a word in the dictionary for their password. Some particularly determined hackers may use a merged copy of all word lists they can find (whether English words, slang, technical terms, or foreign language words).

Why do passwords need to be so long?
The five-character password I tried was rejected for being too short!

Another approach that hackers take is a so-called brute force attack. They simply try every combination of letters, numbers, and symbols that can be used as a password. The shorter your password, the fewer the combinations they need to check. That's why Darton College insists on a minimum password length, and we suggest using something besides only lower case letters. We need to make sure the bad guys have to try combinations including upper and lower case letters, numbers and special symbols.

Why do I need to periodically change my password? I use that password on all my accounts!

We do indeed make you change your password every 90 days for Windows/Email accounts, and we do so for a number of reasons:

Use a FREE Encrypted Password Program to Store Your Passwords
There are several highly regarded FREE programs that you can download from the Internet that will provide you with an exceptionally safe place to store and retrieve your various passwords. By using one of theses, you need only to remember a single password (the master) in order to gain access to all the others. The master is encrypted with 128-bit technology which makes it virtually impossible for a cracker to read.

Password Safe is a free program you can download at:
http://passwordsafe.sourceforge.net/

You may want to put this on a USB device you can keep with you.

Responsible Department: Technology Services Division
Content Contact: Andrew Lenard, Dorea Hardy (web representative)
Chief Technology Officer: Mr. Tracy Cosper
The Darton State College web site is maintained by the Technology Services Division.