Passwords are a pain. Actually, they’re more than that. They’re becoming unmanageable. The average person has dozens of passwords they have to keep track of. And that number is only growing as we sign up for more apps and online services. The situation is made even worse by sites and services that require users to change passwords frequently and by widespread hacking attacks that necessitate replacing passcodes.
Many people resort to simple tricks — using simple, easy to remember passwords; reusing favorite ones over and over; or slightly altering passwords by changing their order or substituting numbers for letters. But these passcodes are often easy to guess, and if your password on one site is compromised, a hacker can potentially gain access to your accounts on other sites.
As hopeless and frustrating as all this seems, there is a solution — using a password manager. I’ve been testing out a couple — after long resisting them – and am now wondering why I didn’t start using one sooner.
But a recent meeting with cybersecurity experts with the Electronic Frontier Foundation spurred me to finally start using a password manager.
Bill Budington, a security engineer and technologist at the EFF, recommended three different password managers — 1Password, LastPass and KeePassX. I focused on 1Password and LastPass, because they each are more complete products than KeePassX, which is an open-source effort whose different components are cobbled together.
Both LastPass and 1Password work similarly. They each store your passwords in a locker in the cloud. You set a master password — hopefully a long and strong one — that encrypts all your data within the locker.
Each of the two companies offer PC programs, browser plug-ins and mobile apps. When you access a website or service on your computer, each service will offer to remember your existing password or, if it’s already in their system, will automatically fill in your log-in information. If you ask them, both systems will also randomly create new, more secure passwords, allowing you to change their length or characters to meet the requirements of particular sites.
You can use LastPass for free. For $12 a year, you’ll get 1 gigabyte of storage and the ability to share passwords with up to five people in your family. By contrast, 1Password costs $35.88 a year for a single user and $59.88 for up to five users.