Ya know that feeling when you’ve spent months clicking on a link that automatically signs you in, only to be prompted for a username and password that you barely remember creating? This is something lots of people deal with in today’s online world. Most use lots of different services and it goes without saying that keeping the same username and password across all isn’t a good security practice. That’s why password managers were invented…
Gone are the days of keeping a notepad full of passwords next to your computer at home. Simply input one password to access your password manager and you have access to all of your passwords. Here’s everything you need to know about password managers, including how they keep your information secure and which one you should use.
Types of Password Managers
Now that you understand the concept of a password manager, let’s talk about the different types of password managers that are available. The main types of password managers are those that are built into web browsers and those which are simply web-based.
If you’ve ever used a web browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, you’re familiar with browser password managers. When you enter your username and password on a website, a small prompt will appear near the address bar (where the URL is typed) which says something to the effect of “Would you like to save your password for this website?” You can select “Yes,” “No,” or “Never for this site.”
When you save your passwords through a web browser like this, you can access them one of two ways. The first and most common way is to simply visit a website and allow the browser to input your information automatically. However, these passwords are organized by website and stored in your settings. You can use this to find the actual contents of a password instead of simply logging in with it.
The problem with browser-based password management is that anyone who has access to your computer—remote or otherwise—can easily look at the passwords you have stored.
This insecurity is what lead to the creation of web-based password managers. Think of these password managers like a keyring. There are many keys on this keyring, but only the holder of the keyring itself has access to them. Similarly, one master password keeps all of your other passwords safe. This makes for a very secure system that’s difficult for thieves to penetrate, especially if you have a particularly strong master password. The problem is, many people don’t. If your master password is a word from the dictionary with no capital letters, numbers or special characters, all you’re doing is providing easy access to all of your passwords.
Thankfully, these password managers make use of encryption, plus you’ll have to go through a two-factor authentication process unless logging in from a trusted device.
Finding a Good Password Manager
So how do you find a good password manager? The key is to look at the security features and settings to find something that works for you while offering robust security.
The first thing you should look for in a password manager is good encryption. One popular password manager, Dashlane, uses 256-bit encryption to ensure only you can view your passwords. If encryption isn’t a large part of the sales pitch for a password manager, you probably shouldn’t be using that password manager.
Two-factor authentication is another important thing to consider. A good password manager will require two-factor authentication unless you’re logging in from a trusted, previously used device. This ensures that only someone who has full access to your information and devices (you) can view your passwords.
While not entirely necessary, strict master password requirements are also recommended. Some password managers will let you get away with a password that’s not entirely secure. A good password manager will advise and even require you to make a password with lots of different characters to ensure nobody can easily guess your password. If your password is easily guessable, they will let you know and make you choose something else.
Thanks to their security and convenience features, password managers are becoming a key part of everyday life for many people—so what are you waiting for? Time to get with the program and start using one today.