Think about what would happen if someone could guess all your passwords. They’d get at your email, they’d be able to order things from Amazon on your credit card, they’d have access to your contacts and calendars, and even to your bank accounts.
Most Commonly Used Passwords
For many people, passwords are an afterthought. The most commonly used passwords are things like 123456, password, qwerty, letmein, iloveyou, and starwars. And 4 percent of people – that’s one out of every twenty-five of your friends and co-workers – used 123456 to protect accounts. And others still leave passwords on sticky notes on their monitor or desk.
With the many data breaches that have exposed peoples’ email addresses, user names, and passwords, all available to hackers willing to spend a few bucks, it is increasingly foolish to use a simple password. But the downside of this is that it is hard to remember a password like DqAJt4acfJ3owB; it’s easier to remember your pet’s name or the name of your favorite Game of Thrones character or sports team.
Why You Should Use a Password Manager
As our dependence on online accounts has increased, so have the options for protecting our data. And using a password manager, an app that stores your passwords, can help you keep all your accounts secure. The principle of these apps – and of software included in various operating systems – is that you create complicated passwords and don’t need to remember them, because the app, or the operating system, remembers them for you. All you need to remember is a master password, the one that unlocks your password manager.
Password Manager Options
There are several excellent password managers, such as 1Password, LastPass, and DashLane, all of which provide you with the tools to create memorable passwords and to fill them in when you need to log into a website or service. (And if they can’t auto-fill, you can copy the password from their databases and paste them where you need to.) Here are two examples of passwords generated by 1Password:
A password manager uses an encrypted database that is often stored in the cloud, so you can sync from, say, your laptop to your smartphone, and have access to all your passwords when you need them.
No Need to Remember Passwords When Using a Password Manager
Each time you create a new login on a website, for example, the password manager can suggest a password – either using random letters, numbers, and symbols, or using a string of random words – enter it for you, and save it. When you need to log into the site, you don’t need to remember that the password is frail-regulate-cadet, and, in fact, you don’t even need to know what it is. Your master password, the one that unlocks the password manager, is all you need to recall. That master password is the key that unlocks the password manager’s database, and the app takes care of the rest.
Password managers are also great for teams who need to share access to certain apps and services. For example, your social media team may all need to log into your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts; a password manager lets you set up a shared database with just those passwords, so any team member can access them. You can also easily change these passwords if you’re worried about a breach or a rogue employee, and the new passwords are automatically available to everyone sharing the database. And password managers offer tools for businesses to see which passwords your employees have used, and when.
Password Managers Offer More than Just Password Storage
Password managers offer much more than just password storage. You can also store other types of data, such as personal information in encrypted secure notes, bank account details, and you can auto-fill website forms with your credit card information. And if you use two-factor authentication on your most important accounts – which you should do wherever possible – these apps can provide you with the one-time codes you need to complete your logins.
With a password manager, you still need to create and remember a secure master password, and there are some techniques for that. Don’t just use, say, your daughter’s first name and date of birth; that’s the kind of info a hacker can find out. One good method is to use four random common words, as this XKCD cartoon explains.
Don’t Forget Your Master Password
You’ll need to keep your master password stored somewhere safe. It’s a good idea to print it out and put it in a safe deposit box, or a safe at your home or office. Because if you forget that password, then you’ll be locked out of all your accounts. Don’t put it on a sticky note or on a bit of paper in your desk; if anyone gets access to it, you’re in big trouble. You could also put it in an app you use or your smartphone or computer that can encrypt files, but that’s a bit risky. The main point is that the master password is the one thing you absolutely need to be able to remember or access. This said, once you start using a password manager, you’ll be entering that master password often enough that you’ll easily remember it. And you won’t have to remember any other passwords.
Do you use a password manager at work? If so, which password manager do you use? If not, what’s the hold up? Tell us in the comments below!