Photo courtesy of Flickr: Jonas Maaløe Jespersen
Allegedly, most humans can remember about seven (plus or minus two) things in our short-term memory. When it comes to passwords, though, I certainly have well more than a dozen places that require me to sign in. With personal banking and work-related accounts alone, I've already exceeded seven. So how can I possibly keep seven distinct, strong passwords in my head? It's too tall of a task. In the past, I would either duplicate passwords across various sites (a terrible practice for cyber-security) or I would scramble to summon up forgotten passwords. Now, it's much simpler: I just use a password manager.
Why I Love My Password Manager
The most obvious advantage to a password manager is simple. You don't have to remember tens of passwords, nor do you have to keep track of which passwords open which accounts. As a result, you can thankfully avoid the too-common pattern of choosing absurdly obvious passwords. It's incredible, but true, that many people still think their pooch "Fluffy" makes a viable password. Not only can you make sure your passwords are strong, but you can select completely distinct passwords for each of your various accounts. Even with a stellar memory, it would be nearly impossible without a manager to have a totally different password for every single account you hold. Just think of how many places you need to sign in, from your air-miles account to online banks to your favorite shopping sites.
What Your Password Manager Should Do
Any password manager worth its salt will sync across all of your devices. After all, you'll still require access to your accounts via your phone, tablet, and laptop. Some free versions of password managers leave out this feature, but many include it, and any premium paid edition really ought to include it. Additional features that come with select password managers may heighten your password security even further. For example, you may be able to enter your credit card details directly into the password manager software, thereby automating the checkout process with online vendors and blocking any keystroke loggers from snatching your data. For highly cyber-security-minded individuals, some password managers keep your passwords encrypted even from the password manager company itself. In other words, your information couldn't be handed over to the NSA or any other authorities, as not even the password manager company actually has access to it.
Setting Yourself Up
In order to pick the best password manager, weigh features like multi-device functionality, online storage, or authentication processes against price. Some password managers that routinely win editors' praise include LastPass and Dashlane. Whichever you pick, remember that your first step is to pick your master password. Make this password as strong as possible but also highly easy to remember. Keep in mind that a password doesn't actually have to be a word. It can be a whole sentence! Plus, you can always incorporate numbers and other characters into words in memorable ways, such as "2" for "two" or "too" or "8" for "ate." From there, set aside some time to sync your password manager with all of the accounts you use most often. For the greatest password security, use the password manager to assess the strength of any new passwords you pick or to switch out old ones for stronger replacements.