D. Password Policy

1.   Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to establish the requirements for the proper construction, usage, handling, and maintenance of all passwords at all University System of New Hampshire (USNH) institutions. These requirements ensure consistent application of security controls necessary to safeguard the information and information technology resources of USNH and its component institutions. USNH aligns itself with best practices from such organizations as National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and Center for Internet Security (CIS).

2.   Scope

This policy applies to all passwords used to authenticate to USNH information technology resources or any information technology resource that stores non-public USNH data.

It does not apply to the following types of passwords, the requirements for each are defined elsewhere:

  • Service Account Passwords - defined as passwords used by an information technology resource to contact or interface another information technology resource
  • UNH Parent Portal Account Passwords

3.   Audience

All USNH community members with access to institutional information or information technology resources should be familiar with this Policy and their responsibilities for complying with the requirements it defines.

4.   Policy Statement

4.1   Password Change Frequency

4.1.1   All passwords associated with USNH accounts shall be changed annually with the following exceptions:

  • System Administrator Accounts (every six months)
  • All non-primary identity accounts accessed by employees with privileged access shall have passwords changed upon departure of employee.

4.1.2   USNH community members shall be notified of the need to change their password, prior to the password’s expiration date.

4.1.3   USNH community members with expired passwords shall be restricted from accessing USNH information technology resources.

4.2   Password Construction

4.2.1   Passwords shall:

  • Be between 14 and 64 characters in length
  • Be sufficiently different from previous passwords
  • Contain a minimum of 5 unique characters

4.2.2   Passwords shall not:

  • include the user’s first, last, or preferred name, the user’s USNH username (e.g., abc1234), or the user’s USNH ID (e.g., 991122334)
  • be re-used
  • contain number or character sequences of 4 or more (e.g., abcd, 6789, sTuV)
  • contain characters repeated 4 or more times sequentially (e.g., bbbb, 8888, TttT, &&&&)

4.2.3   Known compromised or commonly used weak passwords are disallowed.

4.3   Password Usage

4.3.1   Passwords used for USNH purposes shall not be used for purposes outside of USNH including, but not limited to personal banking, Amazon, Netflix, etc.

4.3.2   Passwords used for accessing USNH information technology resources that require local application accounts for authentication shall not be the same as the community member’s USNH password.

  • Local application accounts are accounts for official university applications that do not use USNH credentials 
  • Examples: Salesforce, USNH Benefits

4.4   Password Handling

4.4.1   Passwords shall:

  • Be treated as sensitive, confidential information
  • Not be shared with anyone, including administrative assistants or supervisors
  • Not be written down or stored on-line in clear text
  • Not be shared in email, chat, or other electronic communication
  • Not be spoken aloud

4.4.2   Administrators of information technology resources who need to provide passwords to other administrators may use communication mechanisms for providing those passwords that are approved by Cybersecurity & Networking.

4.4.3   USNH community members shall not use the "Remember Password" feature of web browsers to store USNH passwords.

4.4.4   Forgotten passwords shall be reset using USNH approved automated mechanisms.

4.4.5   USNH community members with forgotten passwords who are unable to reset their password using automated mechanisms shall provide verification of identity via the approved USNH process.

4.4.6   Default passwords on all information system components, peripherals, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices shall be changed to passwords that meet the minimum requirements outlined in this Policy prior to installation or deployment.

4.4.7   Members of USNH Enterprise Technology & Services (ET&S) shall never ask users to provide their password for any USNH account.

4.5   Compromised Passwords

4.5.1   USNH community members who believe their password has been compromised shall notify their local Help Desk immediately.

4.5.2   If USNH has reason to believe a community member’s password has been compromised, the community member’s access may be revoked, without notification, until the community member’s identity can be verified, and their password can be reset.

4.5.3   USNH community members with potentially compromised passwords shall provide verification of their identity and set a new password to regain access to USNH information technology resources.

5.   Enforcement

Failure to comply with this policy puts the University System, its component institutions, and its information and information technology resources at risk and may result in disciplinary action. Disciplinary procedures will be appropriate for the individual responsible for non-compliance (e.g., students, faculty, staff, vendors) as outlined in the relevant institutional regulations for that individual (e.g., student conduct and/or applicable personnel policies).
Non-compliant technology and/or activities may be mitigated as deemed necessary by the USNH CISO and/or CIO.
Employees who are members of institutionally recognized bargaining units are covered by the disciplinary provisions set forth in the agreement for their bargaining units.

Contractors or vendors that fail to comply with this policy may be in violation of their contract with USNH and risk penalties up to contract termination.

6.   Exceptions

Requests for exceptions to this policy shall be submitted and approved according to the requirements provided in the USNH Cybersecurity Exception Standard.

7.   Roles and Responsibilities

  • Application Administrators
    • Ensure local application accounts, including those used to administer applications and those enabling community member access, follow all requirements defined in this policy.
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
    • Enforce this policy and related standards
    • Review this policy annually
  • Enterprise Technology & Services (ET&S)
    • Send expiring password notifications to USNH community members
    • Disable accounts with expired passwords per the USNH Password Management Standard
  • USNH Community Members
    • Comply with all restrictions and requirements outlined in this Policy when selecting passwords for use at USNH
    • Maintain the confidentiality of USNH passwords
    • Use unique passwords on every account (e.g., do not use your USNH password for other accounts)
    • Report all cybersecurity events or incidents to Cybersecurity & Networking.  or example, a USNH password that suddenly stops working without being changed by its owner would be considered a cybersecurity event.

8.   Definitions

  • Access
  • Account
  • Administrator
  • Authentication
  • Compromised Account
  • Confidentiality
  • Cybersecurity/Information Security
  • Cybersecurity Incident
  • Exception 
  • Identity
  • Information
  • Information Technology Resource 
  • Institutional Information
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Non-Primary Identity
  • Password
  • Policy
  • Privileged Access
  • Security Control
  • Standard
  • Username 
  • USNH Community Member


For USNH community members: Questions about this Policy, requests for additional information or training, or reports of violations can be directed to USNH Cybersecurity Governance, Risk, & Compliance (GRC) via this Support Form.

All other requests can be submitted here: Submit an IT Question.

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