3 Steps To Better Online Password Management
Despite my technical background I’m a late adopter in just about everything. I’m not sure why that is, but perhaps it’s the inertia of change or just plain laziness? Either way I only just recently signed-up to a password management program. Now, before you all gasp in astonishment and tell me how I’ve been jeopardizing my online life for years, I can tell you that we did have passwords, mostly unique passwords for just about everything we did online. We kept these passwords in a password-protected Excel file and synced that file online (through Dropbox) for both of us to use. It worked well enough, but it was also cumbersome and (frankly) a pain in the butt to look-up passwords everytime we logged into a website. Also sometimes one of us would accidentally overwrite the password file & mess it up without meaning to. Lastly for ease of use (i.e. to help our wine-aged memories) we DID end up having several passwords which just weren’t particularly secure. It wasn’t ideal…not ideal at all.
So, I started looking at online password managers. There are many, many options out there which cost very little money at all. The main contenders are LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane & Roboform, amongst others. Then there are lots (and lots) of websites comparing them and touting one or the other as the best. In the end we decided on LastPass and having used the program for several weeks now I can attest that it is very snazzy indeed. For only $12/year** (Premium Version) we’ve got easy access across ALL our platforms (PC, iOS, Android etc.) with automatic syncing whenever one or the other of us changes a password. I really, really like this program!
** Note/ The Basic desktop version of LastPass is FREE. The Premium version adds mobile access & several additional multifactor authentication options.
As part of sharing whatever good knowledge I gain with my blog readers, I figured the process of password management and how we decided on our solution would make for a good post, even though it’s not solely RV-related. So, here we go….
1/ Always Use Unique, Long & Complicated Passwords
The worst thing you can do for your online security is use a simple password (say “mydoggie”) and use that same password across multiple platforms. If anyone were to hack or steal access to one of your accounts, they would immediately have access to ALL your accounts. Think I’m being overly careful? You can do a quick test of your current password security HERE and then read THIS article and THIS article to figure out that your password might be cracked even faster than that. For reference, a “normal” 16-character password might take less than an hour to crack with modern methods. To be as secure as possible you want to use LONG passwords (as long as your account will allow), with UPPER & LOWER case characters, NUMBERS and SYMBOLS in NO SENSIBLE ORDER. Combining all 6 items is best (say, a password like “i80*U5Xp9pIq%40n”). Also never, ever use the same password twice! Many programs offer free online password generators in case you need help. For example HERE and HERE.
2/ Keep Your Passwords In a Safe Place
If you decide to keep track of your passwords yourself, make sure to keep them in a protected, safe place. Putting all your passwords in a non-protected file on your computer totally defeats the purpose of keeping them secure, and similarly writing all your passwords down and letting them lie around the house is not smart either. If you’re going to use a file, name it something inconspicuous, and keep that file password protected or encrypted in a secure spot. If you’re going to use a notepad, lock that notepad up somewhere it’s not easily accessible. Of course the safer your passwords are (say, locked up in a Firesafe under your bed), the more difficult they are to access…and this includes for you! This is where most folks either give up (and just use the same password everywhere) or look at some kind of management program.
3/ Switch To A Password Management Program
The biggest advantage of a Password Management Program is that you can have tons (limitless) numbers of long, secure, unique passwords and you never have to remember any of them. Most password programs only have you remember ONE MASTER PASSWORD to log into the program (which is never stored online) and then everything else is there. These days programs are even snazzier and have a bunch of extra features. When I was comparing programs my top requirements were:
- Easy to use across multiple platforms (iOS, Droid, PC etc. both mobile & desktop). We have all of these in our household and I wanted a uniform experience across all of them.
- Easy access from ALL my browsers (Chrome (on my PC), Safari, (on our pads) Dolphin(on our Droid phone)).
- Automatic syncing. If Paul changes a password, I want to have immediate access to it.
- Ability to “share” an account across multiple household users, with ability to have customized views if we want (these are often known as “identities”).
- Built-In strong password generator, so that I can easily generate a great password anytime I need to.
- Auto-Fill & Wallet. I want the browser to auto-fill my login when I’m online and I want to be able to have the ability to fill-in other stuff automatically, including my credit card info (when needed).
- Multifactor Verification. This is an extra security feature that allows you to have TWO steps to verify you’re the owner of the account. It’s primarily important for cloud-based programs.
This TABLE and this TABLE provide nice comparisons across multiple programs. There are many more features you can look at including where the programs store your passwords (on your devices? online?) and what kind of support they provide, but the list above was my minimum.
After reading, asking online & comparing I narrowed it down to two options 1Password and LastPass. Both offered most of the features I needed. 1Password is VERY popular with Apple-based folks & provides a super sweet Apple interface, but it requires a separate license for Mac & Windows and is not quite as sleek-looking on non-Apple platforms. LastPass is more “rustic” in looks, but gives you the exact same experience across all platforms and it has several options for multifactor authentication. Given our mixed-home environment & requirements we went with the latter.
And The Results??
It took a few days to get into the groove of using an online management program and learning the nitty-gritty details of the tool, but since we’ve gotten used to it we’ve been very, very happy with the results. When we’re logged on and browsing on our PC’s the program automatically logs us into our sites. When we’re on our iPads we have seamless integration into Safari and when we’re on our Droid phone it’s exactly the same. We can easily generate and update/change passwords as we need them from any platform and the program immediately syncs it to all our devices. No more worrying about overwriting the wrong password file or trying to remember what our access is.
As an added bonus LastPass has a nifty security check and a few other features (such as the ability to copy/paste passwords for Apps) that I didn’t expect when we bought it. LastPass is definitely not the only option out there, and I feel just about ANY password management program would be a good alternative, but we’re very happy with our choice.
So was that helpful? Do you have any extra tips or good links of your own? Comment away below!
Note/ I have no affiliation with any of these programs.
- Password Programs: LastPass, 1Password, Dashlane & Roboform
- Free Password Generators: Automatically generate a strong password of any length HERE or HERE
- Free Password Checker: See how secure your password is HERE
- Comparison of Password Programs: Tables comparing multiple programs HERE and HERE
- Multifactor Authentication: Read why this is important & how to activate it on common sites HERE