Microsoft drops baseline Windows 10 password expiration policy

Microsoft is getting rid of the 60-day password expiration policy for organizations using its baseline security configuration in Windows 10 with the May 2019 Update. In a draft release of security baseline configurations posted this week, the company explained that password expiration is no longer a useful tool for preventing breaches, and it often causes more headaches than it's worth (via Ars Technica).

By default, Microsoft's current baseline configuration forces users to change their passwords every 60 days. However, as Microsoft explains, this can have the unintended effect of causing people to choose simplistic passwords that are easy to crack, or they will forget their new passwords altogether. Further, if a password is stolen, any set period of time for expiring passwords could still be a liability; the most effective approach would be to have that password changed immediately.

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From Microsoft:

Periodic password expiration is an ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value, and we don't believe it's worthwhile for our baseline to enforce any specific value. By removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance. At the same time, we must reiterate that we strongly recommend additional protections even though they cannot be expressed in our baselines.

In addition to dropping password expiration policies from the baseline configuration, Microsoft is also changing the baseline BitLocker encryption to 128-bit encryption. Previously, Microsoft defaulted to the strongest 256-bit encryption, but the company feels that 128-bit encryption is effective enough. Further, there can be a noticeable drop in performance when moving from 128 to 256-bit protection.

For more on Microsoft's draft security policies and proposals, you can view the company's full blog post.

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