We need a password for everything these days — bank accounts, utilities, health insurance, online shopping accounts, social media — the list goes on. Some estimates put the number of online accounts for the average user at 90! All of these online accounts and passwords become a liability to your online security. Why? Because according to a 2015 survey conducted by TeleSign1, a mobile identity company, on average, only six unique passwords are used to guard 24 online accounts, and 54 percent of people use five or fewer passwords across their entire online life.
Reusing passwords creates a domino effect. A breach at one company gives hackers the opportunity to gain access to the rest of our online accounts, further opening us up to identity theft, fraud and extortion.
How do we create strong passwords? They must be unique, long, a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, and not easily guessable.
If we use this criteria for all 90 of our passwords, there’s no way we’re going to remember them.
Enter a password manager, a software application that helps users store and organize passwords. Password managers typically encrypt stored passwords, requiring the user to create only one strong master password. The master password becomes the only password the user needs to remember because it grants access to the user’s entire password database.
Some password managers store passwords on the user’s computer (offline password managers), some store the data in the cloud (online password managers where the data is stored on a service provider’s server but handled by the software running on the user’s machine), and others are web-based (online password managers where passwords are viewed and copied to/from a provider’s website). Many password managers provide additional features such as form filling and password generation.
Once you install a password manager, you can teach it all your existing passwords and update weak or duplicate passwords. Remember, you can change these weak and duplicate passwords to things that are long and hard to remember, because you don’t have to remember them! The password manager will remember them for you.
Using a password manager is super simple. You will visit a website like normal, but instead of logging into that site, you’ll log into your password manager. The password manager automatically fills in the appropriate login information on the website. If you’re creating a new account on a website, the password manager will automatically generate a secure and random password for you and remember it. Many password managers sync across multiple devices and operating systems.
PC Magazine has an excellent evaluation of the best paid password managers and the best free password managers. You can view them here:
The Best Password Managers of 2017: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp
The Best Free Password Managers of 2017: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2475964,00.asp
Protecting yourself online is one of the most important things you can do for yourself today to guard against identity theft, fraud, extortion, malware, phishing and pharming. We highly recommend you start using a password manager today!
1Telesign, TeleSign Consumer Account Security Report, June 3, 2015. Available from www.telesign.com/resources/research-and-reports/telesign-consumer-account-security-report/