How To Secure & Streamline Your Digital Life With A Password Manager
4 min read
If you're not using a password manager, start now.
The days of jotting down passwords and account log-in information are long gone. And storing that information in your phone or email poses a big security risk. The best way to protect your personal data and accounts is a password manager. We’ve picked a few of the best to help you get started.
A password manager is a tool that stores all of your usernames and passwords in one encrypted database. Think of it as a digital lockbox for all of your online accounts. Instead of a key, you access it using a master password. Once you’re set-up, the password manager auto-fills your login information for the websites and apps you visit. You only need to remember one password (your master password) and you only need to enter it once per session or per device (more often if you self-impose strict security settings).
Since you don’t need to worry about remembering every detail, password managers empower you to create truly unique and complex passwords for all of your accounts.
Easy mobile logins
How annoying is it to enter those complicated, character-filled passwords on your phone? Instead, download the password manager app on all of your devices, and the autofill feature will enable easier logins across the board.
Secure password sharing
Password managers let you share log-in information without sending it over in plain text. This helps ensure that the account holder always maintains primary control. You can grant and withdraw access to specific accounts without the need to share or change the password itself.
Encrypt other personal information
Beyond passwords, you probably send a lot of personal and financial information over the web. Depending on the service you’re using and the type of account you have, you can also use the password manager to store credit card information and other common form data.
It’s better than alternatives
Sign in with Google. Sign in with Facebook. Do you want Chrome to remember this password? Answering “yes” to questions like these could help streamline the log-in process, but it does have drawbacks. One, you don’t always know how much of your personal information that social networks share with the third-party account. Two, if you ever want to de-couple your account from Facebook or Google, you’ll probably run into some problems. Three, it’s not as secure as the encryption of a password manager. Also, social and browser shortcuts don’t boast all of the convenience features, such as syncing up across devices.
LastPass is one of the most popular password managers in the security industry. Create one master password with LastPass to remember all of your account passwords to social media, banks and more. LastPass also lets you manage sites you recently visited so you can easily upload the password information. This password manager comes with strong encryption algorithms, multi-factor authentication and only uses local encryption to protect your passwords and data.
Dashlane lets you manage up to 50 passwords on one device for free. You’ll also get form and payment autofill to quickly enter your information that’s securely stored and generated from your Dashlane account. You’ll get personalized security alerts if your data is found in a breach or hack for better online security. Dashlane also offers a 30-day trial period for you to try it risk-free. Upgraded accounts offer Dark Web monitoring and a VPN for WiFi protection.
Keeper Security offers both fingerprint and Face ID login to quickly and securely access your information. Access your Keeper-managed passwords on unlimited devices and your private media gallery to store photos and videos securely from hackers. Upgraded accounts also come with 24/7 customer support, secure record sharing and BreachWater Dark Web monitoring. All of your data is secure with one master password.
1Password comes with 24/7 email support, multi-factor authentication and 1GB of document storage. You’ll have up to a year to restore any deleted passwords. Every 1Password account comes with a digital wallet and alerts for compromised websites and passwords. Upgraded accounts allow you to share up to five guests for limited sharing to credit cards, notes and other personal data. And if you’re ever locked out, you can recover locked out accounts easily without the risk of compromising your data.
Bitwarden lets you store unlimited passwords and other data on the vault. This password manager comes with two-factor authentication, a password generator and the ability to self-host your own server. You’ll also be able to access all of Bitwarden’s apps on unlimited mobile devices. Upgrade your account for vault health reports, 1GB encrypted file storage and priority customer support. You’ll also get unlimited collections and shared items with up to five users.
Any security pro will be quick to remind you: Nothing that’s connected to the internet is 100% hack-proof. While there is some degree of inherent risk in using a password manager, it’s certainly less risky than lousy password practices. Even the third-party group Industry Security Evaluators (ISE), which published a technical study on specific vulnerabilities of leading password tools, still hails them as “an important and increasingly necessary part of our lives.”
Using a password manager is convenient, but it doesn’t completely let you off the hook in terms of cybersecurity. Follow these steps to optimize the safety and utility of whichever password manager you decide to use.
Sign in to the password manager on all of your devices. If you’re only using a password manager on one of your devices, you’ll miss out on functionality. This usually entails signing in via a web browser on a desktop and downloading an app on your mobile devices.
Use two-factor authentication (2FA). This is a security measure that you should be using for all of your important accounts. It adds an additional layer of protection on top of your master password, to confirm that it’s in fact you attempting to login. There are different 2FA protocols, but they typically involve texting or emailing you a unique confirmation code to enter after you enter the correct password.
Use a strong master password. This code is obviously important, so don’t skimp. Use a long password that utilizes special characters, letters, numbers and capitalization. Don’t reuse a previous password and choose something that can’t be guessed or Googled.
Enable your password manager’s “Secure Desktop” feature, if it has one. This feature helps block off your system from keyloggers and other invasive software when you enter your master password.
Keep your devices updated and use reputable antivirus software. Operating system updates often include security updates and patches, so as long as you keep clicking “Remind Me Later”, you’re probably unprotected. Since malware attacks frequently target personal information, including passwords, antivirus efforts are a step in the right direction.
Practice physical device security. Lock your computer when you’re not using it to prevent tampering from other people. Take mindful anti-theft measures to prevent your device from being stolen, such as keeping them hidden from plain view and always holding onto them when in public. Also, never save passwords (especially your master password) on any shared computer.
Frequently Asked Questions about Password Managers
Are there safe ways to store passwords?
The best way to protect your passwords is to use a password manager. Other ways such as saving passwords on a website or browser can be risky with less encryption. Jotting down passwords in your phone or paper poses a bigger risk if they fall into the wrong hands.
Can password managers be hacked?
Yes – cybercriminals can hack password managers, but providers have extra security measures in place to make hacks less likely. Many password managers also send alerts if websites you visit or passwords are hacked to protect your information.
Are password manager apps secure?
Yes, most password manager apps still feature the same security measures including multi-factor authentication and encryption so you’ll have data security on your mobile devices.
Do password managers require contracts?
No, most password managers don’t require contracts, but you’ll likely get a discount if you pay for an annual subscription.