Searching in System Settings and Feature Access

There’s no denying that Passwordstate has a significant number of options for configuration and customization.  That can sometimes make it hard to remember exactly where a configuration option lives (or is hiding).  That’s why in V9 we introduced a search facility, to find exactly where you need to go, so that you can configure that option.

Search Settings Locations

The Search Settings exists for 2 different areas in Passwordstate, System Settings and Feature Access.  To locate either of these simply navigate to Administration->System Settings or Administration->Feature Access as per the screenshots below; 

In both areas you’ll find the Search Settings dialog at the top of the screen, located just under the page title.  So how does the Search function in these areas operate?

Practical Example of Search Settings

Let’s use a practical example of the Search Settings.  In this scenario you’ve been working as part of the Business Integration Team, looking at what’s required to integrate your Passwordstate Instance into a new organization that’s been formed through the merger / acquisition of another business.

The two original Business Names are to be replaced with a new Entity Name.  The integration Team have suggested renaming the Passwordstate instance to reflect the new Entity Name.  You remember that once you’ve changed the existing Passwordstate instance URL you’ll need to also change this so it appears correctly in all emails, permalinks, etc.  But where to look?

What you could do is search for URL, which instantly drops down a list of the Tab’s and Settings that match the search criteria you’ve entered, as per the screenshot below;

On selecting the first result in the list you are taken to that Tab and the relevant area is highlighted in yellow showing you where you need to make that setting, again as per the screenshot below;

Note the Search Settings criteria is “sticky” until you use the eraser to clear it.  This means that if you remembered you also needed to make changes to the Mobile Access URL for your App Server you can simply select that result (3rd in the list of the search results) and navigate to that tab and make your changes there too. 

It also means that you don’t have to re-enter your search criteria if you selected an option from the results drop down that didn’t match exactly the area you were looking for. We think the Settings Search is a nifty little improvement.  As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Top Ten Golden Rules for People New to Passwordstate

With the release of Passwordstate V9 we’re seeing a lot of interest from potential customers about the existing and new features that are included in our product.  However, we all sometimes get side-tracked by the “bright shiny objects” and miss or skip over the foundational items that are important.

Whether you’re still considering purchasing Passwordstate, or if you’ve already purchased it, there are some Golden Rules that you should be aware of.

Input your License Details

Click Studios sends out your License Keys via email to your Nominated Contacts.  Every time you renew your Annual Support and Upgrade Protection, or purchase additional Licenses or Subscriptions, the updated License Key details you are emailed need to be updated in your Passwordstate License Information. 

The email, with a subject line of Passwordstate License Keys, contains details that are color coded, making it easier for you to know what needs to be updated.  If the email contains any red bolded text, then these are the only details that need to be updated.  Simply navigate to the Administration->License Information screen, select each License Type that corresponds to the block in the email containing the red bolded text, and Cut & Paste the red text into the corresponding field, example being;

The example above (with redacted details) shows updating the Expires and Registration Key details from an email into the License Type of Annual Support.  If the Passwordstate License Keysemail contains no red bolded text then all details in the License Type block will need to be input.  Please also note that when you Cut & Paste the details into the fields make sure there are no leading or training spaces.

Private Password Lists are Private

Passwordstate is Secure by Design!  This means we use a consistent Security design including techniques to protect access to your credentials. 

A Private Password List can only be accessed by the Password List Administrator, which is the person who created the Private Password List.  Security Administrators can see what Private Password Lists have been created, who created them but they cannot view any Password Records in the Private Password Lists or manage any permissions or settings for them.

Passwords can only be stored in Password Lists

People like to talk about Password Vaults so let’s use a like analogy.  Passwordstate uses the concept of Password Lists.  Think of each Password List like a separate Bank Security Deposit Box.  You have access to the Bank (Passwordstate login), know the Room (Folder) to go to and are on the permitted entry list, have the key (granted permissions) to open that Security Deposit Box (Password List) and view/use the contents (Password Records).  Your visit to the Bank, Room, access to the Security Deposit Box, and viewing of the contents is audited (Passwordstate Event Auditing).

Now using this analogy, you can only store your contents (Password Records) in a Security Deposit Box (Password List).  If you were trying to Store the contents directly in a Room (Folder) you’d have your contents strewn across the floor where anyone with access to that Room could see and use/steal your contents (Password Records).

You cannot nest a folder or password list beneath an existing Password List

And building on the Bank Security Deposit Box analogy, you can’t nest a Folder or Password List beneath an existing Password List.  This would be like trying to store 2 Bank Security Deposit Boxes in the same space (if you wanted to nest Password Lists) or even worse, try to fit another Room inside the Bank Security Deposit Box (if you wanted to nest a Folder under a Password List).  Trust me it’s not practical and most of us in IT won’t fit in there.

Password Lists can only exist under Passwords Home (small regional Bank with Bank Security Deposit Boxes in the one room) or under Folders as outlined above.

Logically build your Navigation Tree

Now you’ve got the idea about Folders and Password Lists let’s try something else.  Organisations usually have functions separated out.  It makes it easier to focus on specific tasks and ensures a segregation of duties (it’s not wise for the same person to handle the finances, raise purchase orders pay the accounts and do the financial reporting).  This then leads to people involved in related tasks being grouped together in teams or departments.

Try to logically build your navigation tree to align with your company structure (departments and teams).  It typically makes management of your Password Lists easier and you can use Security Groups that align with the structure to manage access to Shared Password Lists and Records.

Admin Rights under the Navigation Tree

As stated previously in this week’s blog, Passwordstate is Secure by Design!  As a Security Administrator in Passwordstate you don’t have exclusive power over all configurations and functions within your Passwordstate Installation.  Likewise, the number of Security Administrators should be restricted to as low as possible, but more than just one (for when one of them isn’t there).

As an example, you need to be explicitly granted permission to Password Lists and Folders under the Passwords Tab.  Without being granted permissions you won’t be able to see all details in the navigation tree.

Backups…Don’t Skip Them!

If you don’t have a backup of both your Web.config file and your Passwordstate database then we won’t be able to assist in recovering your password credentials! Having current and tested backups of your Passwordstate Instance is critical.

Don’t be one of the statistics that has to report to Management that your Passwordstate Instance is effectively dead, you have no current backups and subsequently no access to your systems or accounts.  We deal with support calls all too regularly where someone forgot setting up their organizations Passwordstate Backups.  If you follow the documentation located on our website, and setup the backups correctly, then you’ve one less thing to keep you awake at night! 

Use Security Groups to your Advantage

You know how you can setup Active Directory Security Groups, and assign permissions to resources based on the Security Group membership?  Well guess what, you can do the same in Passwordstate.

You can synchronize AD Security Groups with Passwordstate and use them to provide access to Hosts, Folders, Password Lists, Password Records and even Administrative functionality in Passwordstate itself.  If you don’t have an Active Directory Integrated version of Passwordstate you can still create Local Security Groups and achieve the same results.  Make your life easier and use Security Groups to your advantage, instead of trying to manage permissions based on individual user names.

Assess your risk and use 2FA where needed

It makes business sense to assess the level of risk in providing access, to privileged accounts or highly confidential password credentials, to your employees.  In situations such as these you could decide that Single-Sign-On or a simple username and password don’t offer the level of protection you need.

In these cases, look to use 2FA as an additional level of protection.  This can be offered on Security Group Membership, implemented as part of a User Account Policy or even configured at the Password List Level.  Take the time to consider the risk of unintended use and implement the access security accordingly.

Ask for a Quote

So, you’ve taken the step and trialed and subsequently purchased Passwordstate.  Now you’re ready to expand the number of users in Passwordstate, or perhaps you’re looking to rollout additional functionality with our subscription based modules.  In either case simply contact us via sales@clickstudios.com.au and not only will we provide you with the quote, we’ll also ensure the new licenses and/or subscriptions are correctly co-termed with your existing Support Expiry Date.  Let us help you get the order right the first time.

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Installing Passwordstate on a Windows 10 PC

One of the issues faced by small businesses, especially in today’s Cloud First World, is there is very little in the way of computing infrastructure that is hosted out of a bricks and mortar premises.  A lot of small business utilising SaaS (Software as a Service) based applications typically have an Internet modem/router, a number of individual or shared PCs, a local printer and a small network switch connecting all these together. 

This type of setup may make it seem hard when you need to centrally manage your accounts and passwords.  But it doesn’t need to be.  Passwordstate will quite happily exist on a Windows 10 PC with only modest resources.  In fact, I recently purchased a small form factor PC (Intel i5 NUC) with 16Gb of Memory and a 1 TB SSD hard drive, along with a copy of Windows Professional for under $1,000 AUD or $750 USD.  This handles the Passwordstate workload for 5 users with ease.  The minimum system requirements can be found here.

Assuming you’ve got either an existing Windows 10 PC, or a brand new PC, you’ll want to do the same thing.  That is install a completely fresh copy of the Windows 10 operating system.  Don’t be tempted to just delete some “stuff” off of the existing PC and then use it as is.  You’ll be forever chasing down why things aren’t working properly, if not immediately, then at some stage in the future.  Just bite the bullet and perform a clean install.

Hardware and Operating System Prerequisites

You’ll need to ensure the edition of the operating system is Windows 10 Professional.  Once the base install has been done ensure that you’ve applied all the operating system patches by going to Settings->Windows Update->Check for Updates.   

When prompted to create an account, create a local account as you’re effectively creating a Passwordstate appliance that will only need to have one (1) login.  This won’t be a shared PC, it’ll be dedicated to running your Passwordstate Instance.  From now on anytime you need to login to the PC itself you’ll be using this account.

Next, you’ll need to confirm the version of PowerShell and .Net Framework that is installed.  A clean install of Windows 10 that is fully patched should be running PowerShell 5. To confirm the version you have, simply search for Windows PowerShell, select Run as Administrator, and type in $PSVersionTable and hit return.  You should see a response like the one below, 

If your result shows the PSVersion lower than 5 you’ll need to install the latest.  Just search for “how to install PowerShell 5” in your browser and pick one of the top responses and follow the instructions.  You’ll also need to have the correct .Net Framework installed.  This can be also confirmed in PowerShell (running as Administrator) by typing,

Get-ChildItem ‘HKLM:\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\NET Framework Setup\NDP’ -Recurse | Get-ItemProperty -Name version -EA 0 | Where { $_.PSChildName -Match ‘^(?!S)\p{L}’} | Select PSChildName, version

Your result needs to be 4.7.2 or higher.  If you need to upgrade to the latest version search for “Install the .NET Framework on Windows 10“ in your browser and pick one of the top responses and follow the instructions.

Download Passwordstate and Install SQL Express

Assuming you’ve already downloaded Passwordstate, you’ll need to extract all the files from Passwordstate.zip into a directory on the PC.  If you haven’t downloaded Passwordstate yet then follow the prompts here

To extract the files just open the Passwordstate.zip file and select the Extract All from the File Explorer Extract->Compressed Folder Tools Menu. This will extract all the installation files as well as copies of the documentation.  In this you’ll find the following documents;

\Installation Instruction\1_Preinstallation_Checklist.pdf

\Installation Instruction\2_Quick_Install_Guide.pdf

\Installation Instruction\3_Installation_Instruction.pdf

I’d thoroughly recommend running through the 1_Preinstallation_Checklist.pdf to ensure you’re ready to start.  It’ll cover off on the requirements for the Web Server and Database Server and link to other documents as required.   One of these linked documents will take you through how to download and install Microsoft SQL Server Express.  This needs to be done before you commence the Passwordstate installation.  When you install SQL Express you’ll be prompted to create an sa account.  Remember the password you specify for this as you’ll need it later on!

Once you’ve covered off on all of the checklist items, you’re ready to start the Passwordstate installation.  Open up either the 2_Quick_Install_Guide.pdf or 3_Installation_Instruction.pdf and get ready to go.

Install Passwordstate

Click on the Passwordstate.exe file that has been extracted.  You’ll probably be prompted by User Access Control asking Do you want to allow this app to make changes to your device, as per the image below, 

Just click on Yes to continue.  You’ll then be presented with the InstallAware Wizard that’ll guide you through the installation process.  Click Next,

Specify the destination folder you want Passwordstate to be installed in.  I would highly recommend that you keep the default destination folder to ensure you have no issues with future In-Place Upgrades etc.  Then click Next,

You’ll now be prompted to supply the preferred URL that will be used when you browse to your Passwordstate website.  By default, this will be the name of your PC.  If you’re just running the Passwordstate Instance on your local network you can keep this as is.  Note that you’ll be initially using a Self-Signed SSL certificate for this website.  Again, if you’re running just on a local network this is fine.  Click Next to continue,

You’ll be presented with the Completing the InstallAware Wizard for Passwordstate screen.  The Wizard will now configure Passwordstate on your computer.  Once completed you’ll be presented with the screen below.  Take note of the URL that is presented (in the red circle) as this is the URL that you’ll be browsing to in the next section and click on Finish.

First Time Configuration and Initialization

Now that Passwordstate is installed you’ll need to create and initialize the database and create a Passwordstate Admin Account.  To do this open your web browser and browse to the Passwordstate URL that was created.  If you used the defaults, you’ll just need to type in the PC name immediately after typing https:// .  This will open the following web page,

From here you’ll need to select Primary Instance and click Begin.  You’ll now be prompted for your Database settings,

You’ll need to supply the Database Server Name, which is the PC Name you are using, specify SQLEXPRESS as the SQL Server instance Name, the sa account for the SQL Login Name and Password that you used when installing SQL Express.  Once you have supplied these details click on the Test Connection button.  If everything is correct the Status at the bottom left will change from Not tested to Connection Okay and the Next button will become available to click on.  Once clicked on you’ll be taken to the System Settings section.

Here all you really need to be concerned with is selecting the Authentication Method to be Forms Based Authentication and… very importantly…creating an Emergency Access Account.  The Emergency Access Account is the “break glass” account that let’s you into the Administration area of Passwordstate in the event you can’t logon as normal with a User Account.  It’s intended to be restricted to the person that handles all the Passwordstate Security Administration, it has an elevated level of auditing and doesn’t allow access to Password Records or Lists.  Once you’ve supplied these details click on Next,

You’ll now be prompted to create the first Account.  This will be the Admin Account and is typically used by the person that handles all the Passwordstate configuration and support.  This Admin Account is granted the role of Security Administrator for this purpose.  Enter the details and click Next,

Your setup is now complete… but you’ll need to export your Encryption Keys first.  The Encryption Keys are split into 4 secrets, with 2 of the split secrets stored in your Web.config file. The other 2 split secrets are stored within the Passwordstate database. It is absolutely crucial that these are backed up!   In the event of a disaster, and you are unable to locate a copy of your Web.config file and database, Click Studios will be unable to help you rebuild your Passwordstate environment.  Enter a password to encrypt the .zip file backup and click on Export Keys (and then store them somewhere safe),

And that’s the base install pretty much completed.  Now you can click on the Start Passwordstate button and logon.  Now when you open a browser and type in the Passwordstate URL you’ll be prompted with the Forms Based Authentication login screen below,

and on entering the Admin Account details you’ll be logged into Passwordstate and be presented with the Passwordstate Guided Tour dialog.  As a new user to Passwordstate it’s worthwhile doing this.

And that’s it, you’re now ready to start adding User Accounts, and your users can start adding Password Lists and Password Records for all their passwords.  For small businesses a Windows 10 Machine, on a local LAN and using Forms Based Authentication is a simple and effective way to get Passwordstate up and running.  Now there’s no excuse to not centrally managing your passwords!

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Branding Options for your Passwordstate Instance

Branding within Passwordstate offers customers the ability to configure their Instance to more closely match an organization’s corporate look and feel.  This can be as simple as providing a custom URL (Uniform Resource Locator), making it easier for your users to remember the name of your Passwordstate Instance, to using custom logos, corporate colours and consistent naming conventions.

All of these are done to project an image of consistency across business applications, make it easier for the user to remember what an application is, and ensure as many barriers to adoption and use are removed as possible.

Passwordstate’s branding options are located under Administration->System Settings->branding.  Here, you’ll find the options for changing the appearance of your instance.  For information on how to change your Passwordstate URL please refer to this previous blog https://www.clickstudios.com.au/blog/how-to-change-your-passwordstate-url/.

Where are the Branding Options?

The following branding examples have been performed in my sandpit environment to demonstrate what you can do.  Here at Click Studios we use the default settings, with the exception of the login screen background image.  After all…we think the branding is pretty cool straight out-of-the-box.

Website and Dialog Logos

 For the purpose of this blog, we’ll make a number of changes from the default Passwordstate branding. 

The first is we’ll change the Main Page display.  Under Show Passwordstate Build Number we’ve selected Only Security Administrators to see the Build Number at the top of the screen.  Next, we’ll enter the wording that appears on the Web Browser tab for any Passwordstate sessions, in this example we’ve changed it to Click Studios Passwordstate

This will produce the following result for everyone.  Security Administrators will still see the version number in its usual location next to the Main Page Title and Logo,

To create the Grey Passwordstate Logos I’ve simply created a green box (same color as the Base Color) in Microsoft Paint 3D, grabbed a Passwordstate logo from our dev environment and pasted it over the top.  In my case I’ve saved it as a .png file with the dimensions of 208 Wide x 24 High (pixels), however you can also save it in .gif or .jpg formats.  Note there is a difference in the sizes between the Title Logo and Dialog Logo.  To upload the new logo’s simply click on the buttons to Upload New Logo as per the image below,

Whilst the Dialog Logo is a little “yuck” with the green box on white – it’s only for the purpose of proving the branding has been done.  The Title Logo results are shown in the images above and the Dialog Logo is show below;

Base Color and Login Screen Background Image?

Now for the base color change.  Again, I’ve simply fired up Paint 3D with a copy of the Click Studios logo.  Then I’ve selected the green in the logo, grabbed that colour to get the Hex color code and input it below,

As the image above shows, you can create a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) to describe how HTML elements are to be displayed.  This does require some knowledge of HTML coding so we won’t go into it here.  Lastly, I’ve decided to upload a wallpaper I’ve previously created as the Login Screen Background Image using the Upload Background button in the image below,

and once you’ve saved the changes that’s it.  Customising the Passwordstate branding really is as simple as that.

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Passwordstate Backup Functionality Explained

You’ll have to indulge me upfront this week. I’ve dusted off my old CTO and Management soapbox and here comes the Backups 101 lecture.

Our driving philosophy is Password management should be affordable for everyone. Because it’s important! You’ll see this on our website, social media pages and in correspondence from us.  There’s no escaping the message, it’s not just lip service or a marketing angle, it’s in our DNA. But you know what is also important…backups!

Backups, the creation of a copy of your organization’s data and information, configuration files, anything that is of material significance for your organization, that needs to be recovered in the event of a failure. This includes and is not limited to hardware or software failures, data corruption, human-caused events, virus or malware incidents, upgrades gone wrong… you get the idea here. If you have data/information that is critical for your business, and you don’t have a backup regime that is regularly tested to prove it works, then you may as well not bother with the data or information in the first place! In fact, and you may not have realised this, you are planning for the business to fail!

And here comes the “Click Studios kicker”… that includes backups of your Passwordstate Instance. If you don’t have a backup of both your Web.config file and your Passwordstate database then we won’t be able to assist you in recovering your password credentials! Having current and tested backups of your Passwordstate Instance is critical… now that’s off my chest let me put the soapbox away and get into this week’s blog.

Backups and Results

With the introduction of Passwordstate V9 we’ve introduced a significant number of improvements to features. One of those is Backups and Upgrades. We’ve made significant changes on top, and beneath the covers, to give our customers an even more robust backup solution. In order to do this, we’ve also had to change the method used for backups.

For the uninitiated, the built in Backup functionality is offered to customers as part of the core Passwordstate software. It’s primarily intended for organizations that don’t have an Enterprise Backup solution that caters for Microsoft SQL and File System backups. Additionally, the built-in backup functionality is tightly integrated with our In-Place upgrade, so you’ll always ensure that you’ve successfully captured a backup before an upgrade. The Backups functionality is located by navigating to Administration->Backups and Upgrades,

From here, if you are using the built-in backups feature, you’ll see the status of your backups with either a green tick or red cross. The Backup Detail section will provide summary information on paths used for the backup and any error messages. Beneath the grid there are options for your backup Settings, performing a manual backup using Backup Now and options for notifications, purging logs, verbose logging and performing an upgrade.

Backups and In-Place Upgrade Settings

First let’s look at your backup settings. Passwordstate V9 introduces a range on new settings and options,

The first of these (Green Dot 1) is specifying an Account that is to be used for running the backup and upgrades. The philosophy behind this is consistent with using a Privileged Account Credential for discovery jobs and resets. The benefits include restricting access in Passwordstate to the account details, having a history of change and a known password for the encrypted .ZIP files that are produced.

The account must have sufficient permissions to destination paths, ability to interact with SQL etc. The following table details the permissions required, at the time of writing this blog for Domain Accounts using Network Shares or Local Folders, but please check for any updates here

For Local Accounts using Local Folders the easiest method is to use an Account that is a member of the Local Administrators group on your server. To check for any updates since writing this blog please refer to this document

Backup Schedule and Settings

The second section (Green Dot 2) details the Backup Schedule and Settings. Here you’ll specify you want to;

  • Enable Backups, specify the number of Backups To Keep, the Backup Start Time and to Backup Every selected period
  • Specify the path for the Web Files Backup to be saved to, including where Encryption Keys are backed up to
  • Specify the path for the Database Backup to be saved to
  • If you want to perform a backup at the beginning of all In-Place Upgrades (highly recommended)
  • The ability to deselect Backup Database if your Enterprise Backup solution handles your SQL Database requirements
  • A check box to select if you have installed your Database on a different server to where Passwordstate is installed
  • A check box to select if you want to Backup Split Secrets into a separate .ZIP file at the path specified for Web Files Backup
  • And lastly if you want to Password Protect Backup Zip Files using the Password from the Password Record of the Account used to perform the backup (Green Dot 1 in the image above, again highly recommended).

When using a Domain account both the Web Files and Database backups can be saved to either a Network path or a Local folder. The format for this is \\Server\Share or Drive:\Folder. If you are using a Local Account then only Drive:\Folder is supported.

One additional manual step you may want to consider, especially if you’re not licensed for the High Availability Module, is to keep a print out of the Account Password Record (along with any other accounts that are required to recover systems) in your company safe or wherever you keep a physical print out of these accounts.

Backup File Naming Conventions

Green Dot 3 allows you to specify the prefix for each of the types of backups. The defaults are examples and you can change these to match any internal naming convention. Each of the backups will have the date and time appended to the file name in the format of YYYYMMDDHHMMSS where,

YYYY = Year

MM = Month

DD = Day

HH = Hour (24 Hour Clock)

MM = Minute

SS = Seconds

Test Permissions

Once you’ve entered all the options as they apply to your environment it’s a good idea to test them using the Test Permissions button. This will run through a simulated backup ensuring that the supplied Account has correct permissions, it can write to the paths supplied, PowerSell is the correct version and that it all SQL requirements can be met,

And that’s it. We can’t stress enough the importance of ensuring Passwordstate is backed up successfully. Full instructions on how to configure your backups can be source from our documentation page here https://www.clickstudios.com.au/documentation/

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Password Strength and Generator Policies in Detail

This week’s blog builds on the entry last week https://blog.clickstudios.com.au/bad-passwords-pwned-accounts-and-prevention/.    

Now that you’ve decided to block the use of Bad Passwords in your organization, using the Bad Passwords feature in Passwordstate, you can take the next step and setup Password Strength Policies and ensure your randomly generated passwords, using Password Generator Policies, match these.

What are Password Strength and Password Generator Policies?

Aren’t they the same thing and we’re just using two different terms to confuse you?  No…. they are similar sounding but have distinct purposes.

A Password Strength Policy represents the rules for determining the strength of a password.  This is where you would effectively copy or represent the attributes that your organization’s password rules use.  It enables you to specify the mixture of alphanumeric characters, case, special characters and length a password must conform to.  It provides an indication of the strength of a password, works with the Password Generator Policy and is applied to one or more Password Lists.

A Password Generator Policy is similar in that you specify the mixture of alphanumeric characters, case etc. but not the specifics such as the required number of alphanumeric characters, case, special characters etc.  It is used to generate random passwords, in accordance with the specified strength policy.

Both Password Strength and Password Generator Policies are applied at the Password List level.  So… for any Password List, the password for a record will be generated using the Password Generator Policy, in accordance with the rules stipulated by the Password Strength Policy.

How do you setup a Password Strength Policy?

First navigate to Administration->Password Strength Policies and click Add beneath the grid.  Alternatively, if the policy already exits then click on the policy name you wish to edit.  In our example the Complex Passwords policy already exists so I’m going to edit it.  This brings up the Edit Password Strength Policy screen and I’ve selected the policy settings tab.  From here you can name, describe and provide the password attributes that your organization has stipulated must be used in a password.  These typically include the use of upper and lower case characters, numbers, special characters and length.

In the example below, Complex Passwords, we’ve stipulated that each password that is used must include 2 UpperCase, 2 LowerCase and 2 Numeric characters and the preferred length is 12.

In addition, we’ve specified the Password Strength Compliance as needing to be Excellent and that Compliance is Mandatory

With Excellent you must meet the rules for the mixture of alphanumeric characters, case, special characters and length as stated in the policy.  You can elect to use other strength compliance modes in the drop-down list if desired.  If Compliance is set to Mandatory then the new password is unable to be saved unless it meets the strength compliance category that had been selected.

On the test password strength tab you can test the policy settings you have stipulated by typing in a password and it’ll give you feedback on where you’re falling short compared to the rules you’ve setup.

How do you setup a Password Generator Policy?

Navigate to Administration->Password Generator Policies and click Add beneath the grid.  Again, if the policy already exits then click on the policy name you wish to edit.  In our example the Custom Strong Click Studios Generator policy already exists so again I’m going to edit it.  This brings up the Edit Password Generator Policy screen and I’ve selected the alphanumerics & special characters tab.  From here you can specify the minimum and maximum length of the passwords, select the alphanumerics attributes that your organization uses, include specific special characters and decide if you wish to use a specific pattern for your passwords. 

In the example below, we’ve stipulated that each password that is generated will be between 10 and 20 characters, includes UpperCase, LowerCase Numbers, and special characters. 

You’ll note that while the alphanumerics section states what type of characters to include there is no minimum setting for any of these.  The minimum number of each attribute is taken from the Complex Passwords Strength Policy that I’ve created.

On the word phrases tab you can optionally include word phrases as part of the generated password;

and you can also generate passwords in bulk on the generate passwords tab.

Can you access both via an API?

Yes, you can access Password Generator and Password Strength Policies via both the Standard and Windows Integrated API.  Simply navigate through to Help->Web API Documentation and select the Standard API Documentation or Windows Integrated API Documentation buttons for more details,

We hope this helps to explain the differences between the Generator and Strength Policies and how you use them.  As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Bad Passwords, Pwned Accounts and Prevention

As the ongoing industry investigation continues, into what has widely become known as Solarigate, it’s worthwhile going back to some base concepts.    

There’s an argument to be had that an organization’s privileged accounts should be considered information assets.  There is a value associated with each of these assets as well as the risk associated with these assets being known and used by unauthorized parties.  If they are used by unauthorized parties then there is also an impact associated with their unauthorized use.  There are many methods you can use to categorize, determine the value of the assets and establish the risk and impact associated with unauthorized use.

Microsoft have recently published the final update on their Solarigate investigation and it makes for interesting reading.  Two key points stand out as background to this week’s blog (taken word-for-word from the Microsoft report);

  • The search terms used by the actor indicate the expected focus on attempting to find secrets, and
  • The cybersecurity industry has long been aware that sophisticated and well-funded actors were theoretically capable of advanced techniques, patience, and operating below the radar, but this incident has proven that it isn’t just theoretical. For us, the attacks have reinforced two key learnings that we want to emphasize —embracing a Zero Trust mindset and protecting privileged credentials.

And lastly, they state that Protecting credentials is essential.  The full article can be found at https://msrc-blog.microsoft.com/2021/02/18/microsoft-internal-solorigate-investigation-final-update/

Working on the above, it’s essential for an organization to treat their privileged credentials as information assets, protect them and ensure that the passwords used are strong.  We’ll be covering Password Strength and Generator Policies next week, so this week we’ll cover off on Bad Passwords, Pwned Accounts and Passwords, and how to minimize the risk of both moving forward.

What are Bad Passwords?

Bad passwords are typically those that are based on words, a sequential series of numbers, or a basic combination of both.  These passwords are susceptible to dictionary and brute force attacks and are easily cracked.  Examples of bad passwords are;

  • Password
  • Password111
  • 12345678
  • 234567890
  • Linkedin1
  • Vikings

If users have the ability to use Bad Passwords then you’re making it that much easier for bad actors to execute an attack that will successfully hack a user’s account. 

How do I know if I’ve been pwned?

Troy Hunt developed the HIBP (Have I Been Pwned) website to allow anyone to quickly assess if they’ve been put at risk as a result of their account having been compromised (pwned) due to a data breach.  Users can look-up their email account to see if it’s been previously captured in a data breach here https://haveibeenpwned.com/

The site also provides API (Application Programming Interface) access so that passwords can be checked against the greater than 613 Million real world passwords previously exposed in data breaches. The premise is that if a password has been exposed then it’s unsuitable for ongoing use.  Passwordstate provides integration with the HIBP repository via the published API.

How to prevent the use of Bad Passwords?

Passwordstate offers a couple of options to limit the use of Bad Passwords.  The first is using the built-in customizable Bad Password Database.  This is based on a dictionary style list of common words and sequential numbers.  Please note that there are words included in the list that some people may find offensive.  They’re included as they’ve proven to be used in or as part of the most common passwords.  If you do not want these included in the database you can delete them.

The Bad Passwords configuration is located under Administration->Bad Passwords->Bad Passwords Database as shown below;

This database can be built on within your organization by adding specifics words that you want to prohibit the use of, for example the name of your company.  To add a new Bad Password simply click on Add at the bottom of the Bad Passwords Grid and enter the word you wish to add to the database.  The example below shows adding the password “clickstudios” to the database,

The second option is to select the Have I Been Pwned API from Administration->Bad Passwords->Bad Passwords Database. 

This will reference the HIBP database via the published API from the Add and Edit Password screens.  Please note that with Version 8 of Passwordstate you can only select the Custom Database or the Have I Been Pwned API.  With V9 of Passwordstate you can elect to use both at the same time.

By using the Bad Passwords feature you are removing one avenue of weakness by ensuring that your user’s passwords are not easily cracked and aren’t the same as those exposed in previous breaches.

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Your Sysadmin has resigned, what do you do next?

Change within your workforce is inevitable!  Employee departure is almost a universal constant, right up there alongside death and taxes.  Employee’s move on for a range of reasons, some leave abruptly, some unfortunately have their employment terminated, some give their required number of weeks notice and others generously provide some flexibility while you search for a replacement. 

However, no matter what the circumstances, when a Systems Administrator leaves there will be disruption.  This disruption can be thought of as a continuum ranging from mild inconvenience at one extreme to utter chaos at the other. 

As they exit your employment there is a myriad of activities that need to be undertaken spanning Human Resources, Payroll, Outplacement Services, reassignment of existing workload etc.  This blog does not cover any of the other disciplines or activities outside of IT.  Rather it is focused on how you ensure the integrity of your privileged credentials, and therefore your data and systems once a Systems Administrator has left.

First Things First!

Immediately disable all personal accounts used by your Systems Administrator.  Most organisations will start this process as the individual leaves your place of employment for the last time. The accounts should include personal and elevated privilege Active Directory Accounts, Unix / Linux accounts, VPN and mobile device connections etc.

If your Passwordstate Instance is AD Integrated this will now prevent them from logging-in and accessing any privileged credentials that they had permissions to.  If you are using Forms-based authentication, or have local Passwordstate login accounts, you will need to login to Passwordstate and set the local account to disabled by selecting the Action Menu next to the user account and clicking on Toggle Status – Enable or Disabled.

Query What Accounts They Had Access To!

One of the invaluable features in Passwordstate is being able to report on what password credentials a user has been granted access to, as well as what they’ve historically accessed.  To do so, simply navigate to Administration->Password Lists and click on the Perform Bulk Processing…  drop down list underneath the Password Lists grid as per the screen shot below;

This will bring up the Bulk Password Reset screen, which I’ve broken down into multiple parts.  The first is the section located to the left-hand side of the page called Search Filter,

Simply enter the User Account of the Systems Administrator, the Site Location you wish to report against (default is All Site Locations) and options for,

  • Recommend resets based on historical user activity, or,
  • All password the user has access to.

and,

  • Show records enabled for Reset, or,
  • Show records which are not enabled for Reset.

It’s important to note the first two are mutually exclusive, as are the second two options.  It’s also important to understand why some password records are not enabled for Reset.  In most cases these will be accounts used to login to applications or web pages where Passwordstate doesn’t have the ability to programmatically reset passwords. 

Site Locations relate to the use of the Remote Site Locations subscription module, where you can manage accounts located on disconnected networks, either firewalled on your internal network, or firewalled over the Internet.

Once you have entered your search criteria click on the Search button.  This will populate the Search Results Grid at the bottom of tReset those Accounts!

Now move over to the right-hand side of the page to Reset Schedule,

From here, you can,

  • Schedule At a specific date and time to reset the passwords for the accounts you select,
  • Add All Records to Queue – if they are accounts that are enabled for Reset, or
  • Add Selected Records to Queue – by selecting them using the check box for each account returned in the Search Results grid at the bottom of the page.  Again, this will only be available if the accounts selected are enabled for Reset.
  • Or you may want to run the Reset job immediately by clicking on Now

If you’ve selected any accounts that are disabled in AD they will still have their passwords reset to the new values.  In the event that you have records that are not enabled for Reset, you can still select them and the use the Export control shown at the bottom of the Search Results grid.  This will export the details of these accounts to a .CSV file so you can manually change these accounts.  Note the passwords for these accounts are not exported in this CSV file.

Lastly, there is a Password Reset Queue grid shown at the very bottom of the page.  This shows any currently pending scheduled Reset jobs.

So Why Do All This!

Using Passwordstate to identify accounts that your ex-Systems Administrator had historically accessed, or had permission to, is both straightforward and easy to do.  You can quickly identify and then reset those accounts to ensure there is no opportunistic or deliberate attempt to access systems.  That’s not to say your Systems Administrator may be intent on causing utter chaos, rather you have a duty to act professionally and take the actions necessary to ensure the integrity of your organization’s privileged credentials, data and systems.

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Reporting Passwords about to Expire

In previous blog entries we’ve run through setting up Scheduled Reports to alert Security Administrators and users when particular events occur.  The previous examples focused on alerting an intended audience when extremely sensitive password credentials, say for an organization’s primary bank account, were accessed.  However, you can also setup a Scheduled Report to notify an intended audience when password credentials are about to expire.  But wait…there’s more. 

You can use Passwordstate to share information, based on assigned roles and permissions and with full auditing of access to this information.  This can include information relating to,

  • Alarm/Door Codes
  • Credit Cards
  • Software Licences
  • SSL Certificates

Passwordstate provides built in templates for these, and you can create your own for things like hardware or software maintenance contracts etc.  The details on what else you can record can be located in a previous blog entry here.  Once you’ve got information and/or password credentials in Passwordstate, you can setup Scheduled Reports to notify you when they are due to expire.

Setup Report for Passwords about to Expire

Like with the previous blog examples, we’re going to use the following account for this blog (yes – it’s still a fake account).  It does however enable us to report against it,

Next, we’ll setup a Scheduled Report by navigating to Reports->Scheduled Reports as per the screenshot below,

and create a report called Passwords-Expiring-90 with the following options,

Note, I’ve elected to CC Report To one of my colleagues, Email Report As Embedded HTML, selected Do not send report if it produces no results and Selected Report Type as What passwords are expiring soon? You’ll also note under Report Description & Criteria it states to use the expiring passwords settings tab.  This is where you set the Password Lists and options you want to use.  I’ve selected the Password List called Website Logins, and the number of days in the future you want to include in the report, in this case 90 days.  You can also select if you want to include passwords that have already expired.

Then simply specify the time and frequency of the report on the Schedule tab, with options for One Time, Daily, Weekly or Monthly.  When the report has run, I receive an email as per the following screenshot,

Storing SSL Certificates and Reporting Expiry

Using the above example, being notified of passwords that are soon to expire, you can do the same for other types of information stored in Passwordstate. 

Here at Click Studios we store all our SSL Certificates, along with their expiry date in Passwordstate.  This enables us to run scheduled reports, advising what certificates are due to expire in the next 90 days.  I’ve included the redacted screenshots showing the SSL Certificate entry for our QA (Quality Assurance) environment below;

and the copy of the certificate,

and the rest is as simple as the steps in the first example.  Doing this we never get caught out with certificates expiring on us without notice!

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.

Improve Mobile Security

What is the single biggest threat to mobility in the workplace?  There isn’t one single threat, rather there are multiple threat categories that pose serious issue.  These range from Fake WiFi Networks, Malware Infections, Malicious Apps and Phishing Attacks. 

As more businesses embrace mobility to improve business processes, increase workplace productivity and enhance employee satisfaction, the risk transfers from traditionally IT managed infrastructure to consumer grade, largely unmanaged, mobility devices.  Add in mobile devices are used to access the multi-factor option of choice, because people are addicted to their smartphones, it’s easy to see why these devices are so desirable as an attack vector for Cyber Criminals.

Sources of Mobile Based Attack

What Cyber Criminals used to target via the desktop they are now targeting via mobile devices.  There are more vulnerabilities exposed in mobile endpoints compared to well managed IT infrastructure.  Over the last three years the number of major vulnerabilities and malware threats for mobile devices have almost tripled.  This results in increased credential theft, data leakage and fraudulent transactions.

A survey run by Enterprise Mobility Exchange reported that Fake WiFi networks were the predominate threat, followed by Malware Infections of mobile devices, Malicious Mobile Apps and Phishing Attacks.

Fake WiFi networks, often called honeypots, allow Cyber Criminals to steal credentials, browser history and perform Man-In-The-Middle attacks when users connect to them.  This is typically done by spoofing the web traffic for the websites the user visits.  Malware is often installed allowing the contents of the device to be read and enabling future theft of credentials and data.

Malware infections are typically a result of having downloaded a malicious app, downloading and opening message attachments from an email or SMS, downloading content from a website and having unpatched vulnerabilities.  Android smartphones are more vulnerable, as Google allows downloading of Apps from sources other than the official Google Play app store, and the core Operating System code is open-source. Even though Apple is a closed ecosystem they aren’t immune as the App store reviews have missed apps that were infected with Malware in the past.

Malicious Mobile Apps can be either outright malicious or introduce risk of compromise through adware, excessive permissions, or a dangerous combination of permissions.  They typically attempt to harvest account credentials or information that can be used in future attacks.  Excessive permissions can be used to intercept multi-factor authentication or send spam and phishing campaigns from your device.

Phishing attacks typically simulate well-known brands such as Banks, Retailers and Webmail, offering login portals that seek to capture specific service credentials or simply obtain email logins that are used in future credential stuffing attacks.

Make it Harder for Cyber Criminal to Exploit Your Mobile Devices

Encryption of your mobile device is critical.  Most zero-day threats require some form of jailbreak or root detection.  When your device is encrypted it acts as an additional layer of security that can help prevent zero-day threats.  By enforcing the use of a Passcode, you turn on encryption in iOS.  With Android there are some additional steps that need to be taken to ensure your device is encrypted.

Best Practices for Mobile Device Security

The following are recommended points to consider for protecting mobile devices, the sensitive credentials used from, and data contained on them:

  1. Be Clear in Your Policies, Procedures and Processes
  2. Make Strong Passwords Mandatory and conform to your Password Policies
  3. Incorporate Biometrics at the OS and Application Levels
  4. Block known Malicious Apps
  5. Encrypt Mobile Devices
  6. Prevent Public WiFi Use
  7. Budget for Mobile Security (it shouldn’t be an afterthought)

So, does Click Studios now Provide Mobile Security?

Well….no.  The point of this blog is to point out that Cyber Criminals are increasingly targeting selected users’ mobile devices.  The security on these devices tends to be less stringent than on business managed desktops and the majority of users still don’t associate the use of mobile devices with an increased risk of targeted attacks.

With the release of Passwordstate V9 we are providing native iOS and Android Apps that allow access to your Passwordstate credentials.  While these apps are secure, and have been application penetration tested, only you know the state of your mobile device cyber hygiene.  We highly recommend following Cybersecurity Practices to maintain good cyber hygiene and the use of a Mobile Device Management (MDM) or Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solution for protection and management of your mobility devices.

And don’t forget, when it comes to generating strong passwords that meet your Password Policies, storing them securely and sharing them amongst your team, you can rely on Passwordstate,   the web-based solution for Enterprise Password Management used by more than 29,000 Customers and 370,000 Security & IT Professionals globally.

As always, we welcome your feedback via support@clickstudios.com.au.