Passwords are the bane of every support tech. Even though you probably rely on passwords to provide security for your network, it’s only a matter of time before a user calls saying that he's forgotten a password. If your network administrator has enforced strong passwords on your network, you may face a creative challenge when it comes to creating new passwords that pass the strong password policy. But there is a free utility to help you out, Random Password Generator 1.0.
Passwords, of course, are nothing more than simple character strings that a user must remember and enter to gain access to network resources. Most networks have no severe restrictions on passwords, other than the default for the operating system used by the network administrator.
But some network administrators enforce strong passwords on their network, and these passwords normally have more requirements than standard passwords. For example, some of the basic strong password requirements in Windows 2000 include:
- · The password must be six characters or longer.
- · The password can't contain any part of the user's full name or username.
- · The password must contain characters that are both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as an exclamation point [!], an asterisk [*], a dollar sign [$], or other punctuation symbols.
Often, strong password policies prevent passwords from being reused for a specified amount of time. For more information about strong passwords, see the article “Should you enforce strict password requirements in Windows?”
Generating strong passwords
As a support tech who's responsible for changing passwords when users forget them, you need a quick way of generating passwords when requested. It’s easy to do with standard passwords—just make up a new word and tell the user. Strong passwords are trickier. You need to make sure you follow all of the rules and make sure you create a unique one each time a user forgets the password.
That’s where the Random Password Generator comes in handy. With this utility, you can rapidly create thousands of passwords that meet your network administrator’s strong password policy.
The Random Password Generator is a freeware utility, so you don’t need to worry about justifying it before trying it out. You can obtain it directly from the programmer’s Web site.
Don’t blink when you go to download the file or you’ll miss it. The download file, Rpgen.zip, is small—only 21 KB—so it will download very quickly. Extract the file to a temporary directory, and you’ll find three equally small files:
- · File_id.IZ—A checksum file
- · Readme.txt—The readme for the program
- · Pw_generate.exe—The actual Random Password Generator executable
Random Password Generator is a snap to use. Just double-click the Pw_generate.exe file to start it. When you do, you’ll see the program begin (see Figure A).
|You don’t need to install Random Password Generator, just run the executable.|
Enter all of the parameters for the passwords you want to generate. You can select the characters you want to use in the passwords by selecting the appropriate checkboxes. In the Length field, specify the minimum length of the passwords you want. Enter the number of passwords you want in the Password To Create field. When you’re ready to go, click Generate. Your new passwords will appear at the bottom of the screen as shown in Figure B.
|The generated passwords appear at the bottom.|
You can save the passwords to a text file by clicking Save. Doing so will cause Random Password Generator to create a file called Pw_generate_file.txt. You can then view this with any text editor.
You’ll probably quickly notice at the bottom of the screen that Random Password Generator can create passwords that include characters that don’t appear on your keyboard. You don’t want to save or use passwords that include such characters. These characters, although valid, appear as ASCII codes when you press and hold down the [Alt] key and enter a number on your computer’s keyboard. Naturally, you don’t want to put your users through such contortions.
When you set a new password for a user, e-mail him or her the random one you generated and make sure you set the option for your network operating system that forces the user to immediately change the password. You don’t want the user to always use a password such as xbv)]kmKCxsmoP!. Having such long and complex passwords only encourages users to write it down on a sticky pad and affix it to their monitor. Let the user create his or her own password that can be remembered and still fits the rules.