Well, it finally happened. I received the dreaded email announcing I’d changed my email and password on a popular online streaming site.
The thing is, I hadn’t.
Shoot, I’ve been hacked.
I know better than to reuse passwords across accounts, but I do it anyway (insert mental flogging, here). So basically, if someone knows my email address and figures out my password, they might be able to gain access to, and take control of my accounts!
To be fair, I have multiple passwords with varying degrees of complexity based on the type of account I’m using.
Banking = hard.
Netflix = not so hard.
It’s time for me to invest in a password manager!
What’s a password manager?
A password manager is software that allows you to generate and store very complex and robust passwords for each account, which you then access through one very complicated password.
We can remember ONE hard password, right?
Essentially, the software stores a unique and complicated password for each account within a database. No more forgetting what your username and passwords are for each account.
Phew, you can finally throw away all those sticky notes and frayed sheets of notebook paper that advertise your information for anyone to see.
How to Choose a Password Manager
For starters, get one with a password generator
Don’t spend your precious mental energy coming up with long, complicated, and robust passwords for each account, when your software can produce unique passwords in an instant. The password manager will remember all the passwords for you, so don’t shy away from using crazy long passwords.
Synching between all your devices
You’ll want your passwords available to you on all your devices. Having to run to your computer every time you need a password on your phone is not useful. Make sure the password manager software can sync your passwords through the “cloud.” When you change a password on one device, all your other devices should get the message!
What’s the cloud? Think iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, or other online storage spaces.
Speaking of that, how does this work with my browser?
Choose a password manager that interfaces with the browser you use most often. Instead of saving your username, password, and credit card information in the browser, save that information in the password manager software and allow the software to autofill from your secure database.
Remember, when you create or change your password on a website, your password manager should pop up and offer to update the database. Moreover, make sure the password manager encrypts your password database properly using a strong cipher.
What’s a cipher?
That’s for another day.
What else should the software do?
You should have the ability to:
- backup and restore your password database.
- run a report to determine which passwords are several years old, which services might be using the same password (duplicates), or which passwords are weak and should be updated with something more robust.
- export your password database in the event you switch to a different password manager.
Launch your favorite browser and search “password managers.”
An online search will return a list of the most up-to-date options.
There are bountiful reviews online for both free and paid programs.
Find one that fits your needs and supports all your different devices. Lots of people use a combination of operating systems such as iOS (your iPhone), macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and yes, even Blackberry, so make sure your’s is supported.
But before you press the download button:
Do a quick search on the company to see if they’ve had any hacks, breaches, or security flaws?
Good to go? Head on over to the download button and install the software.
Consolidating all your passwords may take some time, but it’s worth it.