It seems like every time you turn around, there is a new data breach with experts urging people to update their passwords. This means not only changing your password once on any website and online service you use, it also means changing it on your home computer, your work computer, your smartphone, and your tablet if you own it.
When it comes to online security, one of the best things you can do today is use a password manager. You don’t need to memorise hundreds of codes, you don’t even need to know what they are. A successful password manager generates passwords for you, fills in and remembers them through various devices.
The Myth of Good Strong Password
A couple of years ago, a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters and a number or two is all you needed to create a powerful password, if you didn’t use a name or word contained in the dictionary. That’s just not accurate anymore. Today’s password cracking programmes will break most 8-digit passwords in a minute or less. If you’re using something smart – and popular – like, paSSword, or trustno1, it can crack in milliseconds.
Here is What Makes a Strong Password
The most important feature of a good password today is its length, regardless of the characters you use. A mulberrystreet password containing 13 letters is much better than even a complex 9L*rtPq1 password. The first will take more than 50 years to crack – according to the website How Safe Is My Password? – while the shorter password would take a couple of hours. A sequence of 20 random characters will take about a billion years for the same programme. If you used a password that was 22 characters long, every star in the galaxy would flame out and get cold before the hacker’s machine could find it out.
Make Use of a Password Manager
The password manager is a small software that you instal on your computer and other web-accessible devices that store passwords for any website you use. It’s normally a browser plugin on your computer, while it’s a tiny app on your tablet or smartphone.
Just one password needs to be remembered – the one that unlocks the password manager. When you go to a website, it will automatically fill in the username and password for you. If you want to update your website password or create an account on a new website, it will automatically generate one for you, usually between 20 and 22 characters long. Your login information is kept encrypted and updated between all your devices automatically as soon as you connect to the Internet. Some are free, while others require a small subscription charge, while others offer a free version with payment for advanced features.
Make Use of the Cloud Vs. Local Storage
Before choosing a password manager, you should first determine whether or not you are comfortable with your passwords being stored in the cloud, or whether or not you prefer to store them only on your computer. Of course, when businesses refer to the cloud, they mean their own servers. Although most password managers keep this information encrypted, it is a matter of convenience and personal preference. Millennials, for example, are more trusted with cloud-based services, while older generations may tend to have their information stored on their own computers. KeePass, 1Password and SplashID provide local storage while Dashlane and LastPass use cloud-based encrypted storage.
1Password is supported by Windows, Mac, iOS and Android users. It stores passwords locally on your computer and provides an optional cloud storage service. You also have the option of using DropBox or iCloud. If your computers are connected to your home network, you can use Wi-Fi to synchronise passwords. If you want to exchange passwords in your home or office, you can also share your password file on your local network.
Another password manager that gives you the option to store your passwords locally or online is Dashlane. Using a two-step authentication mechanism to register each device using your master password and an email confirmation. Its free service allows you to use it on a single device, but you would need a paid service to synchronise all of your devices, or share more than five products, as well as get customer support.
Keepass is an open source software project, which means it is free to use, but it can also take some technical know-how to use all of its features. For example, if you want to sync your account across different devices, you need to instal a plug-in. However, it also has plugins to do stuff like adjust the encryption algorithm that it uses, or to write your own automation scripts. It has an optional cloud backup option, otherwise it stores your passwords locally that you can share across multiple devices using DropBox, Google Docs or Microsoft OneDrive. You can share your password file with multiple users, or handle separate password files on your own – one for home and one for your office.
LastPass is an immensely popular password manager providing a free and paid service. Both passwords are kept encrypted on the cloud. It also supports the operating systems of Apple, Windows and Android. The free edition provides compatibility between different devices, including its mobile device app and web browser plugins on Apple and Windows computers.
SplashID also allows you to choose between local and cloud-based storage. It supports all Apple, Windows and Android devices as well as BlackBerry. A single device account is free, whereas the option to share or synchronise through multiple devices requires a nominal monthly or annual charge. Like Keepass, you can share your password file with people at work or at home, at an extra cost. One unique aspect of SplashID is the ability to determine whether you want a particular username to be cloud-based or local storage. For example, you can keep all your less important passwords in the cloud, but you can only keep your banking and credit card login details on your computer if you wish.