From banking to social media to gaming, the amount of accounts we have today is growing out of control. Let’s be honest—it’s easy to use the same password or a variation of the same password for all online accounts, but if a hacker can break one of those passwords, they are one step closer to hacking every account.
Who really has the memory to store all those passwords anyway?
That’s where a password manager can help. It controls access by storing (online or locally) every password in an encrypted file that is only accessible by one strong master password.
When a user wants access to their SoftLayer account for example, the password manager will ask for the master password instead of the SoftLayer account password. It automatically populates the username and password fields and logs in.
Password managers are very convenient, but more importantly they enhance security because of the ability to use longer and harder passwords without worrying about forgetting or writing them down on sticky notes posted to a desktop screen.
Do I need a cross-platform password manager?
Today, most people access the same accounts on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. If that’s you, then yes, you need a cross-platform solution. These Web-based options require yearly subscriptions upwards of $50 for a single user. The convenience of logging in anywhere might be steep, but the additional features might make it worth it. Password managers like Dashlane, LastPass, 1Password, and mSecure offer:
- Secure storage of bank cards and any identity cards like driver licenses
- Password generators
- Keystroke logger protection
- Automatic backup
- Multifactor authentication like biometrics or a token
- Access to pre-determined contacts in case of emergency or death
- Team password sharing (the team lead controls the master password for a single account like a FedEx account and grants access via the users individual password manager)
Do I need a locally-based password manager?
If you’re not comfortable storing passwords online or you just use your desktop to access accounts, choose a password manager that encrypts and stores passwords on your PC. This option is the least convenient but most secure. All password managers listed above come in the locally-based option for free or at a fraction of the cross-platform price.
Although much more secure than not using one, password managers do have some downfalls (that stem from user error). Just like any password, you still need to change your master password regularly, never share passwords with anyone, and once installed, a user should update existing passwords with really hard forgettable passwords or use a password generator for each online account.
And always remember to lock your computer or mobile device when not in use. Although password managers make it harder for hackers to virtually access your accounts, they do not protect against someone physically opening the file.
It’s also a good idea to check settings to ensure that when booting or waking up your device, the password manager requires you to re-enter the password.
Pa$$word1 ain’t cutting it.
If you’re not ready to commit to a password manager, think about the consequences the next time you are prompted to update your password. Adding a “1” to the end of your current password isn’t safe or smart.
We’ve all been there, and committing to a password manager in some cases is expensive and setting one up can be time consuming depending on the amount of accounts, so I understand the hesitation. But it’s worth it for that added layer of protection and security.