Stop Trying to Remember All Your Passwords: an Intro to Password Managers

Password Management for your laptop and mobile phone

It’s really impossible to keep up with all of the passwords we need in order to be online. Statistics show that the average person has 19 passwords but a third of them use insecure passwords like the name of their pet, their birthday, or some equally obvious, popular but terrible password).

Some security risks are greater than others. Having a weak password on your Facebook account probably will just lead to your timeline getting filled with spam but having a weak password into your online banking could lead to fraud, theft, or identity theft.

And with the way that many accounts are linked together through apps, you could have a bigger issue than you anticipate even with “unimportant” accounts.

Password Best Practices

Here are the best practices to have for passwords

  • Use letters, numbers, special characters
  • Passwords should be 8 characters minimum
  • Passwords should be changed every 3-6 months
  • Each account should have a unique password (avoid the domino effect of a hacker figuring out one and then getting access to everything by using the same password over and over)

But even when we are aware of what we should be doing to keep ourselves safe online, it’s still difficult to get there. Our human brains are limited.

If you have 19 or more passwords that need to be used and remembered and you’re going to go ahead and make them fit best password practices, it’s near impossible to remember them all by heart.

What Are Password Managers?

Password managers are specialized software that safely store your login information in an encrypted password database effectively remembering your passwords so you don’t have to.

You can get access to your passwords though a single master password. Once you log in with your master password, you can use a button on your internet browser to insert your login details into login pages.

Many managers will automatically detect that you are on a page and find the correct login details for that page. Password managers can also detect when you’ve created a new login and ask if you would like to save it for future use. Some managers can also generate secure, random passwords for you.

Each password management software is a little different so it’s best to review features before you decide.

Two Great Options for Password Management

LastPass
Free

LastPass cloud password manager

LastPass is a cloud-based password manager which has extensions, mobile apps, desktop apps for multiple browsers and operating systems. Besides one slip up in early 2015, LastPass is known to be very secure. You can even use two-factor authentication to keep your password vault double safe.

The passwords are stored on LastPass’s servers and are encrypted in a way that even LastPass can’t see them!

Love this feature: LastPass allows you to share passwords with anyone else with a LastPass account. The password, when shared, can be used by the recipient to login but isn’t visible to them.

1Password
Premium ($50-$65)

1Password password manager

1Password is a password manager also with extensions, mobile and desktop apps and works with multiple browsers and operating systems but unlike LastPass your passwords are not stored in a cloud. Your data is encrypted and stored on your devices. A big philosophy over at Agilebits, the makers of 1Password, is that you control your data.

1Password also features beautiful design making it more user friendly. Although you do have to pay for 1Password, there is no recurring fee. Plus 1password has TouchID technology! Fingerprint yourself in like James Bond you guys.

Love this feature: Sync your passwords across devices through your own private Wi-Fi.

Password Management Set-Up CheckList

Once you choose the password manager that is right for you, you will want to make sure you’re immediately putting yourself on a path to password management success. Here’s a checklist that goes through a few items you should

  1. Choose a master password that is strong but memorable
  2. Update all of your weak passwords, or just all of your passwords (be honest, you haven’t updated them in 6+ months anyway)
  3. If you don’t update all of your passwords, use your password manager to audit your existing passwords to see if they are weak and update them to strong passwords.
  4. Sync with apps on your other devices like tablet and phone
  5. Share any passwords with people on your team or start getting them on board with a password manager so you can share in the future
  6. Depending on your software, you may be able to store more types of data in your password manager – meaning you’re not limited to passwords only. If it’s helpful to you, you can store credit card information, database information, sftp logins, software licenses, and make secure notes with other types of information too.

What About Saving Passwords in My Browser?

Browsers like Firefox, Chrome, and IE have password managers. This is what’s happening when a popup appears after you’ve logged in that asks “do you want [browser] to save this password?”

However, these built-in password managers fall short of the security and features of a dedicated password management software.

  • Passwords saved through a browser are stored on your computer unencrypted
  • No cross-platform syncing and can’t access passwords from another machine
  • Can’t share passwords with other users
  • Doesn’t generate passwords for you

Password Management is Fun

It’s pretty difficult to keep up with technology sometimes but once you get the hang of password management, it lifts a huge weight off of your tech responsibility load.

And it’s kinda fun too! Password management makes it easy and that is it’s own type of joy.

What do you think? Do you already use password management? Or is all of this news to you? Would love to know what you think and how you’ll proceed from here. Tweet me about it or send me a note I’d love to hear from you.

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. Pronouns: they/them/their