*updated with additional information 2021.
Passwords have become so pesky. I personally can’t wait until we no longer need secret codes and all we have to do is wink at the camera in our device and it will recognize us. Using passwords used to be so simple. Just choose the name of your favorite pet and that’s all you had to remember. Now, to battle sophisticated hacking, we’re supposed to have a different password for each account, and this is enforced by unique password security requirements by websites.
My husband and I spend so much time resetting passwords because we either can’t remember the password, can’t find where we wrote it down or wrote it down incorrectly. I have decided I need a password manager.
If using a password manager is not for you, here are some tips to keep your passwords safe. I’ll put money on the fact that when you finish reading these tips, you’ll want a password manager.
- Reuse passwords – once your password is discovered the hacker has the key to the kingdom.
- Keep your passwords written down near the computer.
- Use easy number substitutions for letters like 0 for O or 3 for E.
- Use short passwords. With the high speed of processing, shorter passwords are discovered faster.
- Use a standard dictionary word no matter how obscure.
- Click on suspicious links or open unfamiliar emails or attachments. They might let a hacker into your personal web space.
- Create phrases rather than words for passwords like I love my cat Max. The experts recommend using at least 12 characters in each password so a phrase makes sense.
- Create unique passwords for each account.
- Keep your computer’s antivirus software and operating system up to date.
- Give false answers to the security questions. It’s too easy for a hacker to find out your mother’s maiden name so use another name if you choose that question.
I use my browser’s built-in password retrieval system (you know, that little box that pops up and asks if you’d like to store the password you just used?). Many password managers will import those passwords, then delete them from your browser and turn off the browser’s password system.
Password Security Managers
The best password managers use a two-factor authentication system. That means there will be a master password to gain access to all your other passwords AND another security threshold like a fingerprint, Google Authenticator, or having the actual device that stores the passwords.
The three managers that I read consistently good reviews for are LastPass, Roboform, and Dashlane. LastPass and Dashlane have free editions available or a premium edition for a fee. Roboform charges a fee for each of their editions. A word about each:
LastPass stores your passwords in encrypted form that even LastPass can’t read. This means that you MUST remember your master password because LastPass can’t help you if you lose it! It has the two-factor authentication and you will have many choices of which kinds you want. It will import your already (poorly) stored passwords from Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. You can install LastPass on all your mobile devices (Macs or PCs) if you have multiples. There is a premium edition with a few more bells and whistles for $2.00 a month.
Dashlane is free for one device. It uses the two-factor authentication with Google Authenticator. It will rate your password choices for strength and will help you replace weak ones. It can import your passwords from Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. There is a premium edition for $4.99 a month and you can sync among all your mobile devices.
Roboform is has a free option, their Everywhere premium option for $19.95 a year or $39.95 for the family. It stores passwords and other data online that it syncs across multiple platforms. Users can log in from any browser and can install it on as many devices as they’d like.
Since this article was originally written, there are several new options for password managers including Agilebits 1Password, LogMeOnce 5.2 and Sticky Password. They all have free and premium options. Do your research to find which is a good fit for you.
Keeping your online privacy is important when trying to keep your information safe. ASE did our homework and here are some great tips and sites to visit.