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No Autopilot for Password Managers

Too many people get disappointed with password managers because they think it’s a simple process to set it up and forget about it. The good programs are worth every dollar you spend on them, but you need to put in the work.

Typing in a password is like keying the entry code at a gated community. Once the gate opens and you go through, you never know if someone else will be riding in close at your heels. If you’re driving through the gate, you can at least see if someone is there. That’s virtually impossible when visiting a website.

To extend the analogy, using a strong password – upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and special characters – essentially enables just you to squeeze quickly through the gate before anyone can follow you in. Password managers make sure you have enough strong passwords to cover all the websites you need them for.

That’s no small task for anyone who visits a lot of websites and uses computers, mobile phones and tablets. Personally, I have 601 passwords, and all of them are 12 to 16 characters long. Most of us either use weak passwords or reuse passwords on multiple accounts. This makes us more susceptible to crimes such as identity theft.

A password manager will generate, retrieve, and keep track of the most complicated, random passwords you can think of across all your accounts while also protecting all your vital online info, such as PINs, credit card numbers and their three-digit CVV codes, answers to security questions, and more. The encryption can be so strong that it might take a hacker between decades and forever to crack – at least for now. In return for all that security, you’ll only need to remember a single password, the one you use to unlock your so-called vault. Your login data will be locked down and, at the same time, remain right at your fingertips. That feature is especially helpful when you’re away from home and either can’t remember a complex password or don’t want to hassle with entering it on your phone.

To use a password manager, all you need to remember is one, single, solitary password. The only problem is that most people think that setting up a password manager is a simple, one-time process, something you can set up and just let it run on autopilot. While the concept is simple, set-up is time-consuming and you need to do maintenance.

We use Dashlane, which may be the costliest password manager on the market, but 1Password and Last Pass are two others that work very well. While each may have some specific features and quirks, they all use cloud-based servers and essentially work similarly.

You’ll need to start by purchasing/downloading the manager of your choice and going through the setup routine. You’ll need to select a master password that functions as a key to the online vault where you’ll store your passwords and other access information. Once you’re set-up, you’ll type in that password – just like you type one in for each website you visit – and the password manager will go through the required steps for access.

The setup will require you to add your username and password for each plus any additional info that a website might require, such as a PIN. It goes without saying that you’ll need to double-check every entry. You can figure on setting aside the better part of a day to do this work. If some form of two-factor authentication (2FA) is available through your password manager, this is where you’ll need to set up everything. Once you’ve entered and verified all your access information, you should download and print a hard copy of everything and put it in a safe place. Whenever you change a password, you should repeat the download-print-store routine. (Note: A good password manager program will be able to import your passwords and access info if you decide to change programs.)

Some considerations in selecting a password manager include the ability to:

  • Work across all the devices you use, i.e. computers, phones and tablets
  • Measure password health, i.e. using the same password for multiple sites or using weak passwords
  • Customize family sharing plans if you need that capability
  • Generate random passwords – though you’ll need to launch this manually when a website requires a password change

While nothing is foolproof or 100 percent safe, we believe that a good password manager program with 2FA or some other method that verifies your device or you can create the best security for protecting your data and online security. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have any questions about selecting, setting up or using a password manager.