1.1.4 Ensure 'Minimum password length' is set to '14 or more character(s)'

Information

This policy setting determines the least number of characters that make up a password for a user account. There are many different theories about how to determine the best password length for an organization, but perhaps 'passphrase' is a better term than 'password.' In Microsoft Windows 2000 and newer, passphrases can be quite long and can include spaces. Therefore, a phrase such as 'I want to drink a $5 milkshake' is a valid passphrase; it is a considerably stronger password than an 8 or 10 character string of random numbers and letters, and yet is easier to remember. Users must be educated about the proper selection and maintenance of passwords, especially with regard to password length. In enterprise environments, the ideal value for the Minimum password length setting is 14 characters, however you should adjust this value to meet your organization's business requirements.

The recommended state for this setting is: 14 or more character(s).

Note: In Windows Server 2016 and older versions of Windows Server, the GUI of the Local Security Policy (LSP), Local Group Policy Editor (LGPE) and Group Policy Management Editor (GPME) would not let you set this value higher than 14 characters. However, starting with Windows Server 2019, Microsoft changed the GUI to allow up to a 20 character minimum password length.

Note #2: Password Policy settings (section 1.1) and Account Lockout Policy settings (section 1.2) must be applied via the Default Domain Policy GPO in order to be globally in effect on domain user accounts as their default behavior. If these settings are configured in another GPO, they will only affect local user accounts on the computers that receive the GPO. However, custom exceptions to the default password policy and account lockout policy rules for specific domain users and/or groups can be defined using Password Settings Objects (PSOs), which are completely separate from Group Policy and most easily configured using Active Directory Administrative Center.




Rationale:

Types of password attacks include dictionary attacks (which attempt to use common words and phrases) and brute force attacks (which try every possible combination of characters). Also, attackers sometimes try to obtain the account database so they can use tools to discover the accounts and passwords.

Impact:

Requirements for extremely long passwords can actually decrease the security of an organization, because users might leave the information in an insecure location or lose it. If very long passwords are required, mistyped passwords could cause account lockouts and increase the volume of help desk calls. If your organization has issues with forgotten passwords due to password length requirements, consider teaching your users about passphrases, which are often easier to remember and, due to the larger number of character combinations, much harder to discover.

Note: Older versions of Windows such as Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0 do not support passwords that are longer than 14 characters. Computers that run these older operating systems are unable to authenticate with computers or domains that use accounts that require long passwords.

Solution

To establish the recommended configuration via GP, set the following UI path to 14 or more character(s):

Computer Configuration\Policies\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Account Policies\Password Policy\Minimum password length

Default Value:

7 characters on domain members. 0 characters on stand-alone servers.

See Also

https://workbench.cisecurity.org/files/3508

Item Details

Category: ACCESS CONTROL, IDENTIFICATION AND AUTHENTICATION

References: 800-53|AC-2(1), 800-53|IA-5(1), CSCv6|5.7, CSCv6|16.5, CSCv6|16.12, CSCv7|4.4, CSCv7|16.2

Plugin: Windows

Control ID: ace8539f03e0a48cc22b6db16da350a0fd865ec7c5ec0b4a80cf4d316fc359d5