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Maximum password age

Published: May 2, 2012

Updated: May 2, 2012

Applies To: Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012, Windows Vista

This security policy reference topic for the IT professional describes the best practices, location, values, and security considerations for this policy setting.

The Maximum password age policy setting determines the period of time (in days) that a password can be used before the system requires the user to change it. You can set passwords to expire after a number of days between 1 and 999, or you can specify that passwords never expire by setting the number of days to 0. If Maximum password age is between 1 and 999 days, the minimum password age must be less than the maximum password age. If Maximum password age is set to 0, Minimum password age can be any value between 0 and 998 days.

noteNote
Setting Maximum password age to -1 is equivalent to 0, which means it never expires. Setting it to any other negative number is equivalent to setting it to Not Defined.

  • User-specified number of days between 0 and 999

  • Not defined

Set Maximum password age to a value between 30 and 90 days, depending on your environment. This way, an attacker has a limited amount of time in which to compromise a user's password and have access to your network resources.

GPO_name \Computer Configuration\Windows Settings\Security Settings\Account Policies\Password Policy

 

Server type or Group Policy Object (GPO) Default value

Default domain policy

42 days

Default domain controller policy

Not defined

Stand-alone server default settings

42 days

Domain controller effective default settings

42 days

Member server effective default settings

42 days

Effective GPO default settings on client computers

42 days

This policy setting has not changed since Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP.

This section describes features and tools that are available to help you manage this policy.

None. Changes to this policy become effective without a computer restart when they are saved locally or distributed through Group Policy.

This section describes how an attacker might exploit a feature or its configuration, how to implement the countermeasure, and the possible negative consequences of countermeasure implementation.

The longer a password exists, the higher the likelihood that it will be compromised by a brute force attack, by an attacker gaining general knowledge about the user, or by the user sharing the password. Configuring the Maximum password age policy setting to 0 so that users are never required to change their passwords is a major security risk because that allows a compromised password to be used by the malicious user for as long as the valid user is authorized access.

Configure the Maximum password age policy setting to a value that is suitable for your organization's business requirements.

If the Maximum password age policy setting is too low, users are required to change their passwords very often. Such a configuration can reduce security in the organization because users might keep their passwords in an unsecured location or lose them. If the value for this policy setting is too high, the level of security within an organization is reduced because it allows potential attackers more time in which to discover user passwords or to use compromised accounts.

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