Password Rotation: Leverage the Power of Auto Rotation to Minimize Threats

BY IT GLUE | April 26, 2023

It’s no secret that most organizations struggle with effective password management. With compromised passwords being the number one threat to cybersecurity, organizations know what’s at stake when incorporating credential management. For a long time, password rotation proved to be an effective strategy for minimizing the risks of compromised passwords. However, cybercriminals have become more sophisticated recently and no longer wait around once they get their hands on stolen passwords.

Keeping this scenario in mind, we discuss the relevance of password rotation against evolving threats and how you can effectively automate it with a robust password management solution.

What is password rotation?

Password rotation refers to the periodical resetting of password credentials in an IT setting. It involves changing the passwords of your user accounts from time to time. By forcing user accounts to change passwords, you can minimize vulnerabilities originating from credential-based exploits.

When you incorporate password rotation, you can limit the overall timeframe when a password is active. As a result, it reduces the timeframe in which a breach could occur with a compromised password.

What is the purpose of password rotation?

With credential exploits getting increasingly common across the world, the best way to reduce vulnerability is to reduce the lifespan of a password. Password rotation plays a critical role in making that happen.

Many people prefer to use their familiar personal passwords for their business accounts, which can risk organizational security. Password rotation prevents people from using their personal passwords for business accounts since they must change their passwords periodically. Some organizations make it mandatory for users to not reuse their previous three or five passwords. This further prevents the reuse of old passwords.

Does password rotation improve security?

Password rotation can prevent a range of security vulnerabilities arising from compromised passwords. Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report estimates that 81% of all hacking-related incidents occur from stolen passwords. For instance, brute-force attacks use a trial and error of all compromised passwords. With regular password rotation, you can minimize the chances of falling victim to an unforeseen attack.

Any organization could get targeted by cybercriminals at one point or the other. Password rotation can significantly increase your security posture and give you a strategic cybersecurity advantage.

Is password rotation a good idea?

Any company with critical information to protect should incorporate password rotation. Most importantly, you should incorporate it with other security practices, like multifactor authentication, IP access control, etc. Here’s how organizations can benefit from password rotation:

  • Minimizes internal security threats: With frequent password rotation, you can prevent your former employees from accessing company accounts. This is especially important for departments where multiple employees might share one account. You can add an extra layer of security by implementing Privileged Access Management (PAM), where each user has their own login account.
  • Prevents breaches of multiple accounts: Password rotation can also help organizations against age-old poor password hygiene – using the same password for multiple accounts. When organizations implement forced password rotation, it prevents the reuse of old passwords by default. As a result, you can limit the simultaneous breach of multiple accounts.
  • Reduces the window of breach opportunity: Even if your passwords get stolen at some point, periodic password rotation can reduce the window of opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage.

Why should you not rotate passwords?

Despite its numerous advantages, password rotation has its downsides. Even the NIST guidelines recommend doing away with password rotation to improve security. Many of the disadvantages have to do with the inefficiency, costs and safety concerns associated with traditional password rotation practices.

  • Inefficiency: When many organizations implement forced password rotation, employees find it disruptive to their core jobs. In addition to the issue of having to manually change the password every 30 or 60 days, users might also experience productivity loss when they have to reset a forgotten password. As a result, it brings down the overall efficiency of an employee.
  • Poor password hygiene: An average person is estimated to have around 70 to 80 passwords today. It is humanly impossible to remember them all, let alone have them all unique. As a result, people use easy-to-remember passwords. With forced rotation, most people set passwords that closely resemble their previous ones. This makes it easy to compromise even the newly set passwords.
  • Increased costs: Inefficient processes result in massive costs for an organization. Between issues like productivity disruption and forgotten password resets, employees lose valuable time. Companies incur high costs due to this lost productivity.
  • Security issues: In many cases of forced manual password resets, most users set passwords close to their previous ones. Hackers can always compromise newly set passwords if they are close to the ones they already have. As a result, forced password resets may not contribute much to security when done manually.

Despite these limitations, password rotation is still valid when you have a strong password rotation policy and a robust password management solution. By leveraging the power of automation, you can overcome the shortcomings of manual password rotation and implement it the right way.

What is a password rotation policy?

Most organizations have their own password best practices or guidelines to maximize their security posture and discourage hackers from targeting their user accounts. A password rotation policy is typically a part of an organization’s overall password policy, providing specific guidelines on password rotation.

You can start with how often you should rotate a password. In today’s scenario, hackers act fast, and a compromised password will most likely be exploited immediately. While it is impossible to rotate your passwords daily, you can set a maximum expiry date for old passwords based on convenience.

In addition to the expiry, you can consider the following factors when setting up your password rotation policy:

  • The number of characters: This is supposed to be a part of your overall password policy. You can also reiterate this when creating your rotation policy. Specifying the minimum length enables system administrators to bring consistency to the password policy.
  • Complexity: In your password rotation policy, clearly define the complexity requirements for user passwords. An ideal password should have a mix of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, special characters and numbers.
  • Trigger schedule: Once you have set the basic parameters, you can determine the trigger schedule for how often users should be prompted for password change. Based on your organization’s security requirements, this could be anything from seven days to 60 days.
  • Start and end date: You should define the start date to define when the password rotation policy should be activated. Also, define an end date only if you wish to stop enforcing rotation after a particular date.

How often should passwords be rotated?

While there is no fixed rule on how often you should rotate passwords, most security professionals agree that it is a good practice to rotate every 30 days for a normal user. However, most administrators prefer to rotate passwords after each usage for critical accounts with sensitive information. You can achieve this with the help of a powerful password management solution that automates the process.

What is password rotation automation?

Manually forcing users to change passwords will only result in poor password hygiene and security vulnerabilities. For instance, a user with the password “Password1” will simply change to “Password2” if forced to reset their passwords manually. If forced to rotate to a complicated password, people tend to forget them often, and tickets related to password resets may increase significantly.

You need to automate the process with a robust password manager. A password manager will offer you a unique password such as “B3vdk{jKixc9n&oe” and save it automatically in its vault. Your users won’t have to create weak passwords that compromise IT security. Advanced password tools can even automatically alert you when a password is compromised and prompt for change.

How does password auto-rotation work?

Most robust password managers can be installed as browser extensions to generate or store passwords. These solutions come with built-in tools that can automatically generate passwords based on your desired level of complexity. Your users don’t have to worry about creating weak passwords and putting your organizational security at risk.

You need to set a rotation schedule in your password manager when incorporating password rotation. Here, you must specify the required password complexity and timeframe for rotation. When your passwords expire, they will automatically self-destruct, and a new password will be created. These new passwords can be accessed when you need them for logging in.

Password rotation is still a viable strategy that can reduce vulnerabilities in your system. However, it is not a good idea when used alone. You need to add other layers of security, such as MFA, host-proof hosting, IP access control etc. Only the most robust and powerful password manager, like IT Glue, can provide you with all these innovative features.

Password auto-rotation with IT Glue

IT Glue is a powerful documentation solution with a robust password engine. Besides allowing you to securely manage your passwords, IT Glue offers Active Directory password rotation. You can rotate Active Directory passwords directly within IT Glue and view up-to-date Active Directory users and security groups. By showcasing contextual Active Directory information, including Active Directory status, last login, password expires and the last password reset information, along with the ability to rotate passwords in one pane, you have a full view to keep your Active Directory users safe and protected.

IT Glue also has granular permissions, so you can control who can access the passwords. It also has OTP for admin passwords, so multiple technicians can securely access admin accounts like Office 365. It also comes with SSO, IP access control, host-proof hosting, MFA, audit trails and more, all within a SOC 2 Type II compliant solution.

To know more about how IT Glue can help you with password security,

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