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Calvin Passphrase

General passphrase information

Passphrases and passwords are the key to ensuring the security and confidentiality of information that is stored in Novell, Moodle and any other passphrase-protected system across campus. You can set a secret question and answer so that when you need to reset your passphrase you can do it yourself without help from CIT.

It is your responsibility, as a user of Calvin computer technology, to make sure that all your account passphrases are as secure as possible. That includes creating a secure secret question with an answer that only you know the answer to. If you do not know the answer to your secret question, you may update your Calvin secret question and answer here. The answer to your secret question is not case sensitive and ignores any punctuation that is used.

At Calvin, your passphrase requires a minimum of 15 and maximum of 30 characters with two different character sets. Some examples of character sets are lowercase letters, uppercase letters, numbers, or special characters like a space or punctuation. The longer the passphrase, the longer it takes to hack. With 96 characters available, it would take three months for a supercomputer to hack an 8-character passphrase, but would take years to hack a 15-character passphrase and your Calvin passphrase expires every 365 days (visit this external link for more information on password recovery speeds).

If at any time you think your passphrase has been compromised, you should change it immediately and notify the CIT HelpDesk (x6-8555).

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Passphrase requirements

  • current or previously used passphrases may never be reused
  • must be 15-30 characters long
  • must use characters from two or more of the following groups (character sets):
    • Lowercase characters
    • Uppercase characters
    • Number characters (required for PCI compliant passphrases)
    • Symbol characters and Spaces
  • must include at least 4 different characters
  • may not start or end with a space (this is because some systems truncate the space)
  • may not repeat the same character 3 times sequentially
  • will expire in 365 days
    • you will receive an e-mail before your Novell and Calvin Account passphrases expire so you have time to change them. (PCI compliant passphrases expire after 90 days)

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Changing your passphrase

Passphrases expire every 365 days (PCI compliant passphrases expire after 90 days). The following web forms are available for updating your passphrase:

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What's the difference between a password and a passphrase?

You are all familiar with passwords. They are short sequences of letters, numbers, and symbols that you enter to verify your identity to a system, which then allows you access to confidential or personal data and other resources. They are often used to access your bank account, iTunes, or any other number of web sites.

  • Passwords are typically 4 to 9 characters, and do not allow dictionary words and names. Because a strong password is usually quite cryptic, it is more difficult to remember and you’re more apt to want to write it down somewhere.
  • Passphrases are typically 15 + characters and allow you to create a phrase that is easy to remember but the greater the length the higher level of difficulty there is for someone to crack your passphrase which makes all your systems that require a passphrase much more secure.

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How can I pick a secure passphrase?

A passphrase is an easy to remember phrase that may include words, numbers, spaces, and symbols.

When selecting a passphrase, think of words that you can put together that make sense to you but would be difficult for someone else to figure out. Avoiding using information that someone else might know, such as your full name and birthdate.

Here are a few suggestions:

Phone number
Don't use your real phone number or another number someone might guess. Make something up like:

  • 1-800-don'tcallme
  • (616)i'mnothome

Rhyming words

  • Fred likes bread
  • Jill slid down the hill


  • Dr. Getwell Soon
  • Professor for life

Other examples

  • Go directly->home
  • summer+fun=vacation
  • I love Calvin College!
  • Passphrases are cool!
Don't use a common quotation or other common phrase.

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When must I change my passphrase?

Your passphrase will expire every 365 days (PCI compliant passphrases expire after 90 days). You will receive multiple warnings via e-mail starting 30 days from expiration (PCI compliant users will receive warning e-mails starting 7 days from expiration). If your passphrase expires, you are still able to change it using the expired passphrase link (PCI compliant users should still use the normal change passphrase link even if the PCI passphrase expires).


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What accounts use which passphrase?

You Calvin passphrase applies to the following accounts:

  • Calvin portal (all)
  • CalvinLink (students)
  • eduroam wireless (all)
  • Colleague UI & Colleague Legacy (faculty/staff)
  • Enrollment forms (admitted students)
  • Google Apps (all)
  • iPrint (faculty/staff, students)
  • Moodle (all)
  • Netstorage (all)
  • Novell login & fileserver (H, R, U drive etc) access (all)
  • Office 365/Outlook e-mail (faculty/staff)
  • StudentMail (students)
  • VPN (faculty/staff)
  • Web Print (students)

The following accounts do not use the Calvin passphrase:

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