Recently I began assisting our Global Services VP, Dan Callahan, with Security Training at customer sites. (Yes, my job title is Communications Director. But at a small company like ours, we all wear many hats.) While I work for an IT consulting company, I’m still on a learning curve when it comes to some aspects of IT. So, I admit to having had a few “aha” moments during these sessions. I personally thought I was pretty savvy when it came to the safety and security of my online data. But turns out I still had a few things to learn. In particular, when it came to the safe-keeping of my passwords.
Like, apparently saving all my passwords in my browser (Google Chrome, in my case) is a rather risky proposition. (Or as Dan put it rather emphatically when someone asked about this during the training, “Oh no, you should NEVER save your passwords in your browser.”) Why? Because (in my case) all it would take is for someone to hack my Google account and they would have access to every password for every site I’ve ever saved on my laptop, phone and tablet. Yikes. (And lest you non-Chrome users think you’re safe, the same is true for other browsers. It’s kind of scary when you think about it.)
The problem is, I like the convenience of having all my passwords saved in one place. And call me lazy, but I especially like it when they my browser fills them in for me when logging onto a website. This is where password managers come to the rescue.
Lock ‘em up
Like a browser, a password manager saves all your passwords in one place. You only need to remember one master password or phrase (make it complicated yet easy enough for you to remember, like song lyrics or a line you’ve memorized from a book. Throw in a couple of numbers replacing letters to make it even more complex). But how is it any different from just using your browser, you ask? Well, password managers are like a bank vault for all your passwords. Their primary purpose is to secure your passwords like they’re the gold in Fort Knox. And if someone DOES hack the password manager site (yes, it has happened), the damage is mitigated by the simple fact that all the passwords they’ve saved for you are encrypted, making them virtually meaningless to the hackers who’ve gotten hold of them.
On top of storing all your various passwords in a super-secure location, password managers have other benefits: They can generate very complex and unique passwords for you that you will never have to memorize. Additionally, many password managers sync your password database across all your devices. That way you have immediate access to your passwords on your desktop, laptop and mobile devices when you are ready to log in. And most come with extensions that autofill your passwords for you on login pages. So lazy folks like me can rejoice!
Time to be proactive
I decided the time to find and start using a password manager was now. I read several reviews on the various password managers available, and after settling on 1Password, I subscribed via the iPhone Apps store. Their current pricing is $3.99 a month, but if you pay upfront for an annual subscription at $35.99, (hold on, I’ll do the math for you), it comes out to only $2.99 a month. Seems like a pretty fair price for peace of mind, no? 1Password apparently was started as a Mac-centric password solution, but it has since expanded to include iOS, Android, Windows, and ChromeOS. This is good for me, as at home (and on-the-go) I’m a Macbook/iPhone/iPad person, but at the office we’re all about PCs and Windows.
I know others here at CGNET who use Lastpass, and someone once recommended Dashlane to me. But you can read up on the features and reviews (here and here) and decide which one is best for you. (Also read this one if you are mainly a Mac user.)
Bottom line: Get on top of this! Like me, once you have you will sleep easier at night knowing that access to your personal data is far safer today than it was the day before.