The passwd command changes passwords for user accounts. A normal user may only change the password for his/her own account, while the superuser may change the password for any account. passwd also changes the account or associated password validity period.
The user is first prompted for his/her old password, if one is present. This password is then encrypted and compared against the stored password. The user has only one chance to enter the correct password. The superuser is permitted to bypass this step so that forgotten passwords may be changed.
After the password has been entered, password aging information is checked to see if the user is permitted to change the password at this time. If not, passwd refuses to change the password and exits.
The user is then prompted twice for a replacement password. The second entry is compared against the first and both are required to match in order for the password to be changed.
Then, the password is tested for complexity. As a general guideline, passwords should consist of 6 to 8 characters including one or more characters from each of the following sets:
- • lower case alphabetics
- • digits 0 thru 9
- • punctuation marks
Care must be taken not to include the system default erase or kill characters. passwd will reject any password which is not suitably complex.
Hints for user passwords
The security of a password depends upon the strength of the encryption algorithm and the size of the key space. The legacy UNIX System encryption method is based on the NBS DES algorithm. More recent methods are now recommended (see ENCRYPT_METHOD). The size of the key space depends upon the randomness of the password which is selected.
Compromises in password security normally result from careless password selection or handling. For this reason, you should not select a password which appears in a dictionary or which must be written down. The password should also not be a proper name, your license number, birth date, or street address. Any of these may be used as guesses to violate system security.
You can find advices on how to choose a strong password on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Password_strength