Lots of accounts, lots of usernames and too many passwords to remember. How are we supposed to keep them all straight? Unless you have the time (and patience) to click the handy “Forgot password” option every time you log into an online account, you’ll likely need a safe place to keep track of your usernames and passwords.
Luckily, there are password manager tools that can help us out, and most are very affordable. However, if you’ve ever searched for a password manager, you already know there are several options, all with slightly different features and capabilities.
How to choose?
There are several important factors to consider:
- Cloud vs. software based. If you work from one device only (your laptop, for example), then a software based product is a great choice. You’ll be the only one with access to it. If you use multiple devices (a phone, tablet and computer, for example), you’ll want to use a cloud based product that will link to all your devices.
- The master password. Your password manager will, of course, be password protected. This means that you’ll want to commit that master password to memory. You’ll also want it to be unique, complex and strong. See “Passwords and Furry Friends” for additional tips.
- Read the reviews. Have others found the password manager to be user-friendly and easily accessible? How do the features compare to different products? While going through reviews and product descriptions, make sure there is a clear indication that encryption is being used on your passwords. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is the industry standard and will be noted in the product description.
- What’s the price tag? Prices can vary from free, to a flat fee, to individual and family subscriptions. Pick what works best for your budget and needs, and understand that if you choose a free service, you may not be getting all the features of the paid version. The paid services, however, are not necessarily better—often a free service will simply limit the number of passwords you can store. It can be helpful to test out a service and see if you like it before upgrading to add more passwords.
When used securely and properly, password managers are an incredible resource. As security professionals—and good common sense—tell us: You should be using a different password for each of your online accounts, from banking to email, social media, subscriptions and shopping. With a password manager, you don’t have to worry about keeping them all straight. Your personal information will be safe, organized and accessible—just for you.