In recent months, what is perhaps the largest collection of stolen emails and passwords in hacking history was posted online. This collection included over 770 million emails, 21 million passwords, and over one billion unique combinations of the two.
Using a password is a hassle but it’s a necessity of today’s technology. While some have tried to replace passwords with fingerprints and facial recognition, neither are perfect and many still resort back to the trusty (but frustrating) password.
How do you make them better? You need a password manager.
What is a Password Manager?
If you’re unfamiliar, password managers such as KeePass, 1Password, or LastPass offer a simple service: They store all your passwords, generate new ones, and then insert them into whatever service you’re logging in to.
Think of a password manager like a diary containing your passwords, locked by a master key that only you have. They’re similar to the password tools already built into your browser that ask you if you want to save your password for a site (although we do not recommend using those).
How Does a Password Manager Work?
Password managers don’t just store your passwords. They also help you generate and save impossible-to-memorize, 25-character passwords when you sign up to new accounts. That means whenever you go to a website or app, you can pull up your password manager, copy your password, paste it into the login box, and you’re in. They even come with browser extensions that automatically fill in your password for you on any device — even your phone.
Think of the times you’re in a crowded or busy place, like a coffee shop or airport. Think of who is around. Typing in passwords can be seen, copied, and later used by nearby eavesdroppers. Using a password manager in many cases removes the need to type any passwords in at all.
How Safe is a Password Manager?
Some of you may think this sounds bad. What if someone gets my master password? That’s a reasonable and rational fear. Having all your passwords in the same place does mean they’re a target for hackers, and the vault your passwords are stored in is not necessarily impenetrable. Though, if you’ve chosen a strong master password that you’ve not used anywhere else, it’s a near-perfect way to protect the rest of your passwords.
Over the years, some password managers have been hacked. However, there haven’t been any passwords released onto the internet thanks to encryption and prompt fixes when needed. Those problems may be a turn-off to some, but let me tell you why they shouldn’t be. Take a moment to consider the alternative. You would have to create strong, unique passwords for each account, memorize each one, and refresh them every few months — never going to happen. In reality, you would end up committing the cardinal sin of using the same password for multiple accounts. That is a far riskier practice than using a password manager!
So Should I Use a Password Manager?
The concerns some have of password managers are greatly outweighed by the increased security they provide. Like all software, there are vulnerabilities that could put you at risk, but as long as you keep your password manager up to date, your risk is significantly reduced.