Have you ever taken a moment to think about all the online accounts you have? Banks, emails, retail stores, streaming sites… Most of our lives are online, and every account we have means one more password. If you stopped to count just how many passwords you use, we bet the total would surprise you. To put it simply, passwords are the keys to our digital lives.
So how do you keep track of dozens of passwords? Typically, users do some combination of three things: they use the same password for most accounts, they save their passwords in their browsers or they write them down. Unfortunately, all three of these approaches have major security weaknesses. The good news is that there is a way to practice good password etiquette and remember all the passwords for your dozens of accounts! The answer to all your password problems? A password manager.
What is a password manager?
Password managers generate, store and retrieve passwords. In short, by using a password manager, you only have to remember one password. Your password manager will also generate extremely safe and secure passwords, and will allow you to store other important information (PINs, usernames, etc.) in a highly secure environment.
You might doubt the safety of storing all your personal information in one application, but it’s actually very safe. In fact, a password manager is probably the safest place to put everything, as it’s encrypted with a key (your master password) that’s never sent to the applications using the passwords stored within. Even if that application is hacked (which is highly unlikely due to all the safeguards put around your information), your data will be scrambled and unusable. That said, if someone got your master password, they could potentially access your manager. Therefore, we recommend that you never use your master password for anything else. You can also employ multi-factor authentication to add another login step and further safeguard your account.
What free password managers does MyITpros recommend?
As with any other application or program, there is no one-size-fits-all password management solution. Everyone has different needs and requirements, so the most important thing is to choose something that works for you. There are a lot of free password managers to check out, but MyITPros staff personally used these two and had great experiences:
LastPass: This is one of the most popular free password managers on the market. It works on both desktop and mobile and has a lot of key features such as password generation and password management, meaning it will create secure passwords for you, store them, alert you if you have duplicates and remind you when it’s time to update them. LastPass will also auto-populate your passwords on websites – just like your browser, except more secure! Note that there is a small fee ($1 per month) if you want to sync passwords between your desktop and mobile devices.
Dashlane: Dashlane works similarly to LastPass and is available in a premium version for syncing your mobile and desktop ($3 per month). It also does password creation, auto-population and storage, and has a cool digital wallet feature that allows you to store bank information and capture/save receipts.
Regardless of which application you choose, the important thing is to take proactive steps to protect yourself and all of your sensitive digital information. In a world where online security threats are growing as rapidly as our dependence on the internet, we cannot overstress the need for smart personal security practices.