Better password policies could result in less credential reuse, academics find

New research points to complex passwords being less used across multiple services

The word password among code

Requiring longer and more complicated passwords could prevent people from using them in multiple websites and online services, according to new research.

According to a research paper from scientists at Indiana University, overcoming password reuse on such services could be easier than imagined. The researchers looked at the password policies of 22 universities in the US as well as 1.3 billion email addresses and passwords obtained from and Anti-Public combination lists.

From the 1.3 billion credentials found in the and AntiPublic datasets there were nearly 7.4 million email addresses associated with .edu domains.

Based on email addresses belonging to academic institutions, passwords were compiled and tested against a university's prescribed password policy. They discovered that longer, more complicated passwords or passphrases are ultimately less likely to be reused on other sites.

"Similar to length, there is a distinct trend towards higher complexity having a lower likelihood of being reused," said the researchers. One of the best performing universities in the research was Indiana University with a password a minimum requirement of 15 characters. This discouraged nearly all its users (99.98%) from reusing the same password on other sites.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

"Additionally, we found that the majority of password policies were difficult to very difficult to read and understand according to the Flesch reading scale and typically have a literacy requirement of high school level."

The researchers recommended that organisations should Increase the minimum password length beyond 8 characters; increase maximum password length; disallow the user's name or username inside passwords; and contemplate multi-factor authentication.

"Our recommendations are not only applicable for universities, but also can be used by other organisations, services or applications," researchers said.

Featured Resources

Digitally perfecting the supply chain

How new technologies are being leveraged to transform the manufacturing supply chain

Download now

Three keys to maximise application migration and modernisation success

Harness the benefits that modernised applications can offer

Download now

Your enterprise cloud solutions guide

Infrastructure designed to meet your company's IT needs for next-generation cloud applications

Download now

The 3 approaches of Breach and Attack Simulation technologies

A guide to the nuances of BAS, helping you stay one step ahead of cyber criminals

Download now



What is ethical AI?

21 Jan 2020
Careers & training

A guide to cyber security certification and training

13 Jan 2020
internet security

Avast and AVG extensions pulled from Chrome

19 Dec 2019

Google confirms Android cameras can be hijacked to spy on you

20 Nov 2019

Most Popular

operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

13 Jan 2020
Microsoft Windows

What to do if you're still running Windows 7

14 Jan 2020
web browser

What is HTTP error 503 and how do you fix it?

7 Jan 2020
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Data protection fines hit £100m during first 18 months of GDPR

20 Jan 2020