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Is there any way to set up minimum passcode requirements, such as a minimum length, requirement of mixed case alphanumerics and at least 1 symbol in the passcode, and enforce that at passcode changes?

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3 Answers 3

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Password complexity in Ubuntu is controlled by PAM. Unfortunately, PAM is "typically Unix" like in its approach. Meaning that it spreads its configuration through a large number of very confusing files.

The file that controls password complexity is:

/etc/pam.d/common-password

There is a line:

password [success=1 default=ignore] pam_unix.so obscure sha512

Which defines the basic rules for password complexity. You can add a minimum length override by changing it to:

password [success=1 default=ignore] pam_unix.so obscure sha512 minlen=12

or whatever minimum you want. As you can see, the default already defines some basic obscurity rules. These basic rules can be seen in:

man pam_unix

Search for "obscure".

There are a large number of pam modules that can be installed.

apt-cache search libpam-

Should show you them.

You will need to hunt down the documenation for them I'm afraid. But the "cracklib" is a common addition.

UPDATE: I should have pointed out that the default "obscure" parameter includes tests for complexity based on previous passwords and simplicity (length, number of different types of character). The example in the manpage shows cracklib in action. Install libpam_cracklib to get that working.

Also, once you have worked out what to change, the changes are the same in other files so that you can enforce the same (or different) password checks for SSH and other applications.

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  • According to man pam_unix, the default password minlength is 6 chars if you search minlen.
    – Timo
    Commented Feb 10, 2018 at 9:19
  • this doesnt work for ubuntu 18.04 - even with this setting I can put any password I want (short, palindrome,.. ) - I just need to repeat such password 4x :(
    – xhudik
    Commented Sep 27, 2018 at 12:15
  • When you say "doesn't work", it isn't clear what you mean. Do you mean that it does work but that repeating the short password 4 times is some kind of "bypass" - if so, respectfully, you are wrong, that is still a strong passcode. Otherwise, could you please clarify? Commented Sep 30, 2018 at 20:56
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Pre-installed PAM modules allow you to set up basic requirements within the light of complexity. There is a nice module which is a successor of pam_cracklib module - pam_pwquality. In order to install it type the following

apt-get install libpam-pwquality

then get familiar with this one

man pam_pwquality

especially with the "Options" section.

Now you can edit the common-password in /etc/pam.d/

vi /etc/pam.d/common-password

find the line which contains the following "password requisite pam_pwquality.so" statement and after pam_pwquality.so attach your options like this

password        requisite         pam_pwquality.so minlen=16 ucredit=-4 retry=3

which stands for "the minimum size of password is 16 characters, where minimum 4 of them a uppercase. Prompt user for password 3 times.

pam_pwquality allows you make much more complex password requirements in combination with other modules like pam_pwhistory. Good luck

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Password values are controlled in the file

/etc/pam.d/common-password

For more information on how to modify the file see pam_unix manpage

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