Frequently Asked Question

Are administrators allowed to share passwords?

PCI DSS requirement 8.5 (and the associated sub-requirements) applies to administrators. As such, administrators are not allowed to share passwords. The intent of requirements for unique user IDs and complex passwords is to ensure each user is uniquely identified—instead of using one ID and password for several employees—so that an organization can maintain individual accountability for actions and an effective audit trail per employee. This will help speed issue resolution and containment when misuse or malicious use occurs. Often, this requirement for unique IDs and complex passwords is met within administrative functions by using, for example, "su" or SSH such that the administrator initially logs on with their own unique ID and password, and then connects to the administrator account via "su" or SSH. Often direct root logins are disabled to prevent use of this shared administrative account. This way, individual accountability and audit trails are maintained. However, even with use of tools such as "su" and SSH, the actual administrator IDs and passwords should also meet PCI DSS requirements (if such accounts are not disabled) to prevent them from being misused.
October 2012
Article Number: 1080