Ensure PAM Enforces Password Requirements - Authentication Retry Prompts Permitted Per-Session


To configure the number of retry prompts that are permitted per-session:

Edit the pam_pwquality.so statement in

/etc/pam.d/common-password to show

retry=3, or a lower value if site policy is more restrictive. The DoD requirement is a maximum of 3 prompts per session.


Setting the password retry prompts that are permitted on a per-session basis to a low value requires some software, such as SSH, to re-connect. This can slow down and draw additional attention to some types of password-guessing attacks. Note that this is different from account lockout, which is provided by the pam_faillock module.


Shell script

The following script can be run on the host to remediate the issue.


# Remediation is applicable only in certain platforms
if dpkg-query --show --showformat='${db:Status-Status}\n' 'libpam-runtime' 2>/dev/null | grep -q installed; then


if [ -e "/etc/pam.d/common-password" ] ; then
    valueRegex="$var_password_pam_retry" defaultValue="$var_password_pam_retry"
    # non-empty values need to be preceded by an equals sign
    [ -n "${valueRegex}" ] && valueRegex="=${valueRegex}"
    # add an equals sign to non-empty values
    [ -n "${defaultValue}" ] && defaultValue="=${defaultValue}"

    # fix 'type' if it's wrong
    if grep -q -P "^\\s*(?"'!'"password\\s)[[:alnum:]]+\\s+[[:alnum:]]+\\s+pam_pwquality.so" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" ; then
        sed --follow-symlinks -i -E -e "s/^(\\s*)[[:alnum:]]+(\\s+[[:alnum:]]+\\s+pam_pwquality.so)/\\1password\\2/" "/etc/pam.d/common-password"

    # fix 'control' if it's wrong
    if grep -q -P "^\\s*password\\s+(?"'!'"requisite)[[:alnum:]]+\\s+pam_pwquality.so" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" ; then
        sed --follow-symlinks -i -E -e "s/^(\\s*password\\s+)[[:alnum:]]+(\\s+pam_pwquality.so)/\\1requisite\\2/" "/etc/pam.d/common-password"

    # fix the value for 'option' if one exists but does not match 'valueRegex'
    if grep -q -P "^\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so(\\s.+)?\\s+retry(?"'!'"${valueRegex}(\\s|\$))" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" ; then
        sed --follow-symlinks -i -E -e "s/^(\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so(\\s.+)?\\s)retry=[^[:space:]]*/\\1retry${defaultValue}/" "/etc/pam.d/common-password"

    # add 'option=default' if option is not set
    elif grep -q -E "^\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" &&
            grep    -E "^\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" | grep -q -E -v "\\sretry(=|\\s|\$)" ; then

        sed --follow-symlinks -i -E -e "s/^(\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so[^\\n]*)/\\1 retry${defaultValue}/" "/etc/pam.d/common-password"
    # add a new entry if none exists
    elif ! grep -q -P "^\\s*password\\s+requisite\\s+pam_pwquality.so(\\s.+)?\\s+retry${valueRegex}(\\s|\$)" < "/etc/pam.d/common-password" ; then
        echo "password requisite pam_pwquality.so retry${defaultValue}" >> "/etc/pam.d/common-password"
    echo "/etc/pam.d/common-password doesn't exist" >&2

    >&2 echo 'Remediation is not applicable, nothing was done'