Most computer users today have lots of different online accounts, each requiring a login password. It’s likely your own accounts include email, social media, various websites, and online banking platforms. To simplify, many people will use the same password for each of their accounts.
Big mistake! Even if that password is highly complex, a determined hacker may be able to crack it, maybe even in just a few minutes. That would leave all of your accounts at their mercy. You need a strong, unique password on every site, and a simple way of managing this complexity. That’s where a password manager comes in.
What is a password manager?
A password manager application is like a vault where you can store all your passwords. To unlock this vault, you need only remember the master password. Inside, you store a different strong password for each of your accounts. To save you the work of memorizing each password, the “vault” auto-fills the password for the account you want to get into.
For password storage, a highly encrypted vault is a much safer place than a file on your computer, or a slip of paper. Computers can get infected with malware; pieces of paper can get lost. These are things you need not worry about with a password manager.
Alleviating security concerns
Having different passwords for all your accounts means that, if one account password is compromised, the rest remain secure.
For even higher security, some password managers come with two-factor authentication (2FA). With 2FA enabled, each time you log into your account, a different code/token is sent to your app or mobile device. You must enter this secondary token to complete login.
Let’s look at more features of password managers. We’ve seen how they not only store your passwords, but also generate new ones as needed. A good app generates highly complex passwords for optimum security. The algorithms used can give you the kind of passwords that would take decades to crack.
Some apps provide separate, isolated vaults for specialized sensitive data, such as banking details and credit card information.
Cloud-based storage gives you greater security and allows you to seamlessly sync your account across all your devices.
Are you wondering about password sharing, with a spouse for example? Some apps that provide this feature allow as many as five people on a single account.
Choosing a password manager
We recommend LastPass, which offers apps and 2FA for a range of devices and is usable with the major browsers and operating systems. Also look into 1Password (whose popularity is growing) and keepass (for those who prefer desktop apps over the cloud). For the most security, some hardware crypto wallets like Trezor provide password manager functionality.
For product comparison, check out the tom’s guide review of the best password managers in 2020 and 11 Open Source and Commercial Password Manager for Teams.
Strengthen your security
Password managers offer you an extra layer of security beyond the options you already have. And, besides using 2FA on the password manager app, you might consider using it on the websites you log into.
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