Usability issue when forced to change password when logging in to a system

John Olsson M john.m.olsson at
Fri Jan 23 21:52:13 AEDT 2015


What I am about to describe is something that has existed for a very 
long time, but it is still a usability issue. :)

When logging in to a system and the system detects that the password has 
expired and needs to change this happens

Login As: Foobar
Your password has expired. Choose a new password.
Old Pasword:

Now the user has just read the text

"Your password has expired. Choose a new password.".

This means that the user has already started thinking about what 
password to change to. The mind is set on the new password. And almost 
always (consistently) the "Old " prefix is lost. You just start typing 
the new password. And *bam* you are in password change hell and get 
extremely frustrated as a result.

This has been observed with numerous people.

If you combine this with draconian password policies you are very close 
to snapping. ;)

In the OpenSSH source code it looks like OpenSSH does not cache and copy 
the authentication password back to the PAM stack when password change 
is invoked. Instead OpenSSH gets it again from the tty leading to the 
above usability issue.

So I am wondering if there is any reason for doing like this? And if 
not, could this please be fixed in an upcoming release of OpenSSH? Or 
prehaps there is already a configuration setting for tweaking this behavior?



John Olsson
Ericsson AB
GSM BSC/BSS System Management

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