This guide is intended for administrators who are responsible for managing user accounts in their Microsoft Active Directory environment. Before you perform the tasks in this guide, please ensure you have correctly installed Specops Password Policy.
Specops Password Policy can be configured from any computer in the domain where the Specops Password Policy Administration Tools are installed. The administration tool can be used to configure different aspects of the product.
Domain Administration tool: The Domain Administration tool controls domain wide settings for Specops Password Policy.
Group Policy snap-in: Manages Specops Password Policy settings.
Domain Administration Tool
You can use the Domain Administration tool to manage configurations that apply to your entire domain. Once you have modified the settings, your changes are automatically saved.
You can access the Domain Administration tool via the start menu.
You can use the Password policies tab to perform the following tasks:
- Create a new Password Policy, or associate an existing policy with a new GPO.
- View the list of all Group Policy Objects in your domain that contain password policy settings.
- Get an overview of the password policy rules associated with each GPO listed.
- Edit an existing policy.
- Remove a policy from a GPO.
Creating a new Password Policy
Note: you can create a new policy through the Domain Administration Tool, or through the Group Policy Management Editor (expand User Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings node, and select Specops Password Policy, then click Create New Password Policy).
- Click Create New Password Policy
- Select an existing GPO by clicking its name in the Group Policy Object list, or click New Group Policy Object… to create a new GPO to link to this OU and policy.Note that when you create a new GPO, you will get the option to name it, as well as associate it with an existing Organizational Unit. By default the GPO will apply to all users in the group. You can also filter which users the GPO applies to by adding security groups.
- Click OK.
- Select a template from the list, or choose Custom if you want to create a policy from scratch, then click OK.
- Configure the policy, then click OK.
For more information on policy configuration, please refer to the Policy Settings section.
Editing an existing policy
Note: the Default Domain Policy can not be edited and affects all users in the domain, unless they are affected by a fine-grained password policy.
Note: you can edit a policy through the Domain Administration Tool, or through the Group Policy Management Editor (expand User Configuration, Windows Settings node, and select Specops Password Policy, then click Create New Password Policy).
- Select the GPO whose policy you want to edit in the Password Policy column.
- Click Edit Policy
- Edit the policy, then click OK.
For more information on policy configuration, please refer to the Policy Settings section.
Removing a policy from a GPO
- Select the GPO whose policy you want to remove in the Password Policy column.
- Click Remove Policy.
- In the confirmation pop-up, click Yes. The policy will be removed from the list.
You can use the Domain Administration tab to perform the following tasks:
- Disable and enable Specops Password Policy: Applied to your entire domain and determines if the Sentinel processes incoming password changes.
- Edit license information: Used to view, add, or edit your license information.
You can use the Domain Settings tab to perform the following tasks:
- Save previous password with reversible encryption: Allows you to save the user’s previous password with reversible encryption in Active Directory.
- Reversible encryption is needed for the following settings:
- Disallow reusing part of the current password
- Minimum number of changed characters
- Reversible encryption is needed for the following settings:
- Email Settings: Here the global SMTP settings for all email notifications can be configured. The following settings need to be configured:
- The SMTP Server
- Use TLS (if enabled, communication between the client and the SMTP server are encrypted)
- Port (port outgoing emails are to be sent through; default is port 25)
- Authentication (sets the method for authenticating with the SMTP server: Anonymous Access, Basic Authentication, or Integrated Windows Authentication)
- Default Sender Email Address
- Default Sender Display Name
For more information on all notification settings, please refer to the Notifications page.
- Custom user attributesIf email and telephone number in Active Directory are not stored in the standard email and mobile fields, respectively, they can be overridden here.
You can use the Password Policy Sentinel state tab to verify that you have installed the Sentinel on all writable domain controllers. If you notice a domain controller is missing the Sentinel component, you can:
- Run the Setup Assistant again to install it, or
- Manually install the Sentinel Component on the affected domain controller
You can use the Language files tab to update to new versions of language files. This will only update if there are new versions of language files available on the computer where the Domain Administration tool is installed after an upgrade.
You can use the Password policy templates node to create a new password policy template, or view an existing template with NIST, NCSC, Microsoft, and NSA recommendations. A password policy template will help keep your policy settings consistent throughout your domain.
Create a new Password Policy Templates
- Click Create New Password Policy Template.
- In the Template name field, enter a name for the template.
- In the Description field, enter a description for the template.
- Specify the settings, and click Save.
Use an existing password policy template
- In the Group Policy Management Editor expand User Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings node, and select Specops Password Policy.
- Click Create New Password Policy from Template. Select a Password Policy Template to use for the Group Policy.
- If the Microsoft or NSA templates are selected, you will be taken to the policy settings page for additional configuration options. If the NIST, and NCSC templates are selected, you will be prompted to:
- Create a list of disallowed words.
- Download the password dictionary for the template. The dictionary is a combination of password lists designed for penetration tests.
- Set a maximum password age for users affected by the policy to proactively check against password dictionaries, and prevent the creation of vulnerable passwords. This is a Specops recommendation that can help you stay protected against the latest dictionary lists.
- If the NCSC template is selected, you will be prompted to set a minimum password length for users affected by the policy.
- You will be taken to the policy settings page for additional configuration options. Click OK when you are done.
Specops Password Auditor
You can use Specops Password Auditor to scan your Active Directory and detect security related weaknesses, specifically related to password policies.
Click Start Specops Password Auditor to get started.
For more information about Specops Password Auditor, click here.
Breached Password Protection
Breached Password Protection Complete
With Specops Breached Password Protection Complete you can make sure that users cannot use passwords that are known to be leaked. In the Domain Administration Tool you can:
- Import API Key
- Test cloud connection
- Register a new Arbiter
Breached PAssword Protection Express
The Breached Password Express list is a large collection of leaked passwords that you can download in order to prevent users from using any passwords on the list. In the Domain Administration Tool you can:
- Download the latest version of the list
Group Policy Snap-In
Note: You can also create and manage Specops Password Policy settings from the Password policies tab in the Domain Administration tool. See the Domain Administration Tool section for more information.
The Group Policy snap-in, installed with the Administration Tools, allows you to create and manage Specops Password Policy settings in Group Policy Objects. The settings are stored as a part of the GPO. Managing Specops Password Policy settings in Group Policy allows you to control how and where the policies are applied.
- In the GPMC, expand your domain node and locate the Group Policy Object.
- Right click on the GPO node and select New.
- Enter a name for the Group Policy Object and click OK.
The password policy will apply to all user accounts in locations where your GPO is linked.
If more than one GPO is linked on the same level, the link order of the GPOs determine the order the GPOs will be processed. If conflicting settings from multiple GPO’s apply to a user, Group Policy will resolve the conflict. Group Policy Objects are applied in the following order; The GPO closest to the user object in AD will have the highest precedence:
- Local Group Policy Objects
- Site linked Group Policy Objects
- Domain linked Group Policy Objects
- OU linked Group Policy Objects
If the above order does not enable you to apply your preferred settings, you can use security filtering to control on a permission level which users and computers will be affected by the GPO. Security filtering allows you to apply different policy settings to objects located on the same level in Active Directory.
You can create or edit password policies in two ways:
From the Domain Administration Tool
- Open the Domain Administration Tool
- In the left navigation, click Password policies
- Click Create new password policy, or select a GPO in the Password policy list, then click Edit Policy.
From the Group Policy Management Editor
- Access the Group Policy Management Editor for the GPO you want to associate a policy with
- Expand User Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings node, and select Specops Password Policy.
- Click Configure Password Policy, or Create New Password Policy (if the GPO does not yet have a policy associated with it).
In the Group Policy Management Editor expand User Configuration, Policies, Windows Settings node, and select Specops Password Policy. Click Create New Password Policy to configure the policy. You can use policy settings to manage password security for users in your organization.
You can configure a password policy to use classic password rules, and/or passphrases. A passphrase is a special type of password based on a sentence, or a series of words. The requirements of a passphrase, by default, are that it needs to be long.
Note: If you enable remember passwords, we create a leaf object where the password history is stored. By default, the leaf object is locked down, and subordinate to the user. For more information, click here.
|Number of remembered passwords||Specify the number of passwords the system will remember. Users will be prevented from reusing the stored passwords.|
|Minimum passwords age (days)||Specify the number of days that must elapse before the user is allowed to change their password.|
|Disallow incremental passwords||Prevent users from selecting new passwords that only differ from the old password by the last character.|
|Minimum number of changed characters||Specify the number of characters that must be changed in a password.|
|Disallow reusing part of the current password||Specify the number of consecutive characters from the old password that are not allowed in the new password. |
Note: For more detailed information about how to manage password expiration settings, including length-based password aging, click here.
Account lockout settings
|Disable account lockout||Prevent accounts from being locked out from Active Directory. This setting is commonly used for windows accounts running critical services.|
Password reset options
|Ignore this policy on password reset||Ignore policy settings when the password is being reset.|
Note: Do not enable this setting if the user can reset passwords through a self-service solution such as Specops Password Reset.
|Require user to change password on next logon||Require the user to change their password on the next logon after the password has been reset.|
|Unlock locked accounts automatically on reset||Automatically unlock user accounts when their passwords are reset.|
This setting is used to control the contents of the message sent to the users when they fail to meet their password rules:
|Client message language||Specify the language localization to use in the message.|
|User feedback on failed attempt||Display the policy rules, failed rules, or a custom message after a failed attempt.|
|Additional information to end users at password change||Specify any additional information you want to give the end users when they change their passwords.|
|Maximum password age (days)||Specify the time (in days) that can elapse before a password expires.|
|Length based password aging||Toggle length based password aging on or off. Length based password aging rewards users who use longer passwords with a later password expiration|
|Number of expiration levels||Sets the number of expiration levels. More levels allow for more differentiation and different expiration rewards.|
|Characters per level||Value representing password length range for each expiration level.|
|Extra days per level||Extra days rewarded beyond default expiration for every level the user attains in their password length.|
|Disable expiration for the last level||Disables expiration for users who have met the criteria for the highest level set.|
Password expiration notifications
|Notify at login (days before expiration)||When this option is enabled, users will be notified when their password is about to expire when they log in to Windows|
|Send email notification (days before expiration)||Specifies whether the user receives an email notification that their password is aout to expire. Users will receive an email once a day until they change their password. Number value determines number of days before expiration when the users should start getting emails.|
|From email||Sender email address. Set in Domain Settings in Domain Administration Tool.|
|From name||Email sender name.|
|To email||Recipient's email adddress. %UserEmail% placeholder should be used.|
|CC||Optional CC email addresses, comma-separated.|
|Subject||Email subject line. Placeholders can be used.|
|Body||Email body text. Placeholders can be used.|
Password length requirements
|Minimum password length||Specify the minimum number of characters in a password.|
|Maximum password length||Specify the maximum number of characters in a password.|
Character group requirements
|Number of required character groups||Specify the number of character groups that the password must have characters from.|
|Required alpha characters||Specify the minimum number of alpha characters (A-Z) in a password.|
|Required upper case characters||Specify the minimum number of upper case alpha characters in a password.|
|Required lower case characters||Specify the minimum number of lower case alpha characters in a password.|
|Required non alpha characters||Specify the minimum number of non-alpha characters (digits, special characters, Unicode characters) in a password.|
|Required digits||Specify the minimum number of digits (0-9) in a password.|
|Required special characters||Specify the minimum of special characters in a password.|
|Required Unicode characters||Specify the minimum number of Unicode characters that must be present in the password.|
Note: Enable this feature only if the user has the ability to enter Unicode characters directly from their keyboards.
|Use regular expressions||Allows the use of Regular Expression (RegEX) string matching against password.|
Password content restrictions
|Disallow username in password||Prevent the use of the username in the password.|
|Disallow full username in password||Prevent the use of full account name (first name, last name, display name) in the password.|
|Disallow part of username in password||Prevent the use of parts (three or more consecutive characters) of the account name (first name, last name, display name) in the password.|
|Disallow digit as first character in a password||Prevent the use of a digit as the first character in a password.|
|Disallow digit as last character in a password||Prevent the use of a digit as the last character in a password.|
|Disallow consecutive identical characters||Specify the number of identical consecutive characters that can be used in a password.|
|Use custom dictionaries||Using a custom dictionary allows you to add, configure, and remove password lists and password hash lists. The list is checked each time there is a password change in Active Directory. A new password will be rejected if it is found in the dictionary.|
|Use online dictionaries||Using an online dictionary allows you to add, configure, and remove password lists and password hash lists that have been published on the Specops website. Browse for a password list and password hash list to import. The list is checked each time there is a password change in Active Directory. A new password will be rejected if it is found in the dictionary.|
|Show failed dictionary word to user||When dictionaries are used and configure to use partial match, this setting will display the part of the password found in a dictionary following a failed password change attempt.|
Note: For more information about dictionaries, see Configure custom and online dictionaries.
|Minimum passphrase length||The minimum number of characters in the passphrase.|
|Require one or more lower case characters||One or more lower case characters in the passphrase.|
|Require one or more upper case characters||One or more upper case characters in the passphrase.|
|Require one or more digits||One or more digits in the passphrase.|
|Require one or more special characters||One or more special characters in the passphrase.|
|Passphrase message||A description of the policy that will be displayed to end users when changing their password. The message should explain the policy requirements the passphrase should meet.|
|Use custom passphrase requirements||When this option is enabled, you can add additional requirements, such as regular expressions, to the passphrase policy.|
|Custom Regular Expressions||Create the regular expressions that will be used to validate passphrases.|
|Sample passphrase||Type a sample passphrase to test against the regular expression.|
Breached Password Protection (add-on)
You can enable Breached Password Protection validation during a password reset, and/or password change.
For more information about the Breached Password Protection settings, click here.
Granting Dynamic Feedback UI access to read passwords
- read Default Domain Policy (enabled by default)
- When using Specops Password policy: to resolve a user’s SPP policy and read the policy. This is typically enabled by default.
- When using fine-grained password policies (FGPP) : to read on the user objects, and to read the FGPP container and the policies in it (CN=Password Settings Container, CN=System, DC=acme, DC=org)
- When using FGPP: to read msDS-PSOApplied and msDS-ResultantPSO on user objects.
Configuring the Client from the Administrative Template
The Client can be configured using the administrative template in the Group Policy Management Console.
- Open the GPMC and navigate to the GPO you want to edit.
- Right click on the GPO and select Edit…
- In the Group Policy Management Editor dialog box, expand Computer Configuration, Policies, Administrative Templates, and click Specops Authentication Client.
- Select Specops Password Policy, and double-click the settings you want to configure.
- Make the desired changes, and click OK.
If you configure the settings, it is recommended to create a Central Store for Group Policy Administrative Templates and add the Specops Password Reset Administrative template.
The Central Store for Administrative Templates allows you to store all template files in a single location on SYSVOL where they can be accessed and presented on any server from your domain. To create a Central Store for Group Policy Administrative Templates, copy the Specops uReset Client ADMX/ADML files from
The ADMX should be copied to:
The ADML should be copied to:
For more information about the Central Store and best practices, visit: www.support.microsoft.com/kb/929841