We’ve all experienced the frustration of being locked out of one account or another, our brains drawing a blank as we wrack them for the requested password or obscure security question which we can’t remember ever having answered. Of course, passwords are important and two-factor authentication processes are becoming commonplace as the threat of cyber attacks looms ever closer in the public sphere. But most of us have taken to heart the advice of not using the same, simplistic password for every account, meaning we’re struggling to remember a myriad of convoluted passwords which follow little or no pattern. Enter password managers, software to solve all your problems, well, your password remembering problems at least.
A password manager is effectively a piece of software which can be installed on your computer and is able to remember, store, and produce all of your passwords without you having to lift a finger. Now, this doesn’t mean you can still use ‘password’ or ‘123456’ for every account: they’re still incredibly hackable and will leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks. But thanks to password managers you can choose long, unique and complicated passwords for each and every account without having to worry about forgetting them.
Depending on the level of password manager you go for, almost all are able to support you when it comes to two-factor authentication. This term refers to the now common anti-cyber attack practice of asking for both a username/password combo plus an additional piece of information which has been previously supplied by the user. Often these are simple enough (birthday, favourite pet, first school etc) but it is both quicker and easier if there is something embedded within your computer or browser which can autofill these tiresome forms. Your password manager itself will also be protected in this way.
But how exactly do password managers work? Well, most install as a browser plug-in, a piece of software which runs alongside your usual Internet service provider without you really knowing it’s there. The only time you’ll notice it to begin with is when you enter your username and password details on a site and a pop-up from the plug-in will offer to save the information. By clicking yes, this login is stored for future reference so the next time you return to the same page, your password manager can autocomplete the information for you. If there is two-factor authentication, they can also quickly complete this security step too. All good password managers protect themselves and all of their information from cyber attacks through complex encryptions and high IT security settings so you needn’t worry about someone getting their hands on every single one of your passwords.
It may take a little time to set up your new password manager because you will need to enter all of your existing passwords into the database. We would recommend as you do this you change your weaker (easy to remember/type/complete) passwords for more complex, code-defying ones. After all, it’s no longer your job to remember them so you can make them as convoluted and nonsensical as you like without fear of forgetting it next time you come to the site. In fact, most password managers include a password generator function so you don’t even need to come up with a string of random letters/number/symbols. Remember also to sync all of your devices together so your password manager can support you on your computer, tablet and mobile.
We could go through the vast number of great password managers available right now but there are already numerous articles doing exactly that. So we’re just going to share our single, best recommendation: LastPass. This is a browser extension which does literally everything you could want from a password manager, from two-factor authentication to syncing across all your devices, including your mobile phone. At only $12.00 per year it’s also one of the cheapest on the market at the moment. There is also a free, limited version available but we’d suggest a dollar per month is something most businesses can and should splash out on. From filling in web forms for you to automatically capturing and storing new passwords LastPass is a simple-to-use, competent piece of software which everyone should have in their lives to help defend against cyber attacks.