A Beginner’s Guide To The Password Manager
by TUCU Managed IT Services in Toronto
With So Many Online Accounts, Is It Time For A Password Manager?
In a previous post I wrote about how reusing passwords leads to email hacking and other bad things. But, in a world where more and more services like banking, hydro, cellular, takeout food, online shopping and more are encouraging us to use online portals, having a long list of different passwords for each account is becoming cumbersome. This is where you may be tempted to recycle passwords. But for security reasons, reusing passwords is frowned upon. The password manager was developed to address this modern day need for password management. But should you use one?
What Is A Password Manager?
Password managers are essentially online databases that store all your passwords for various sites and allow you to log in to them all with a master password - the password for your password manager. It’s like having a master key to unlock all your personal, private online doorways.
And it certainly makes password management and memorization much easier than relying on your good old (overworked, super distracted) brain. Only having to remember one password is a major benefit of password managers.
There are many password managers available but let’s talk about the one you’ve probably heard of: LastPass
LastPass Password Management Service
LastPass is probably the most popular and widely recognized password manager solution on the market. It offers robust features and affordable paid options ranging from free to paid premiums with added features.
How does LastPass work?
LastPass is your master password. It works by giving you an account which you log in to through a web browser (or the LastPass desktop client). Once logged in you can search a list of supported sites or even add sites not listed. After you select a site, you provide your login credentials for that site, and LastPass will save the information in an encrypted format.
The next time you visit that site, to login you simply use your LastPass credentials to login instead of having to remember the username and password you added to your LastPass database for that site. It may seem cumbersome at first, but after you’ve added a few sites with different passwords you’ll start to notice the benefits of only having to remember one password thereafter.
Let’s explore some of the features LastPass advertises.
Highly Accessible On Most Browsers & Devices – LastPass has a hearty list of supported sites for which users can save their passwords.
Works On Multiple Devices – Another feature that makes LastPass highly accessible is its ability to work on multiple devices coherently. Users can login and use LastPass on a wide range of browsers such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Safari and more, and can also use the desktop client which has versions available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. What also makes LastPass exciting is it’s portability which allows it to run on mobile devices such as iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android and Windows Phone, proving it’s available for most if not all users.
Automatic Form Filler – This is less of a security feature and more of a convenience tool. When registering accounts with many sites, you’re often required to fill out fields of personal details such as your name, address, email address and other assorted information. The Automatic Form Filler saves all that information and whenever you encounter a website with a form requesting this information it automatically populates the results, saving you a little time.
LastPass also comes with a wide range of premium features that you may want to explore. They also have an Enterprise edition which works to help streamline employee usage on a small to medium business scale. You can visit LastPass to view a list of LastPass, LastPass Premium and LastPass Enterprise features.
Generally, LastPass is a good service, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring attention to the recent hacking of LastPass. In 2015, LastPass was left vulnerable when intruders hacked into their servers. Due to military grade encryption deployed by LastPass no actual passwords were compromised. Hackers were only able to retrieve user emails addresses, password hints and other unencrypted data. Nevertheless, it scared users and raised voices from critics.
This was not the first time LastPass was hacked, but just as with this recent attack, no encrypted data was stolen. The scale and nature of the LastPass database makes it a target to attackers who likely view it as a digital treasure trove.
When giants like this are breached, it’s how they handle those breaches that can make or break them, and given their excellent management of the breach, I still give LastPass my approval.
Alternatives To LastPass
There are quite a few alternatives to LastPass which offer the same or nearly the same feature set as LastPass. One of the main reasons I recommend LastPass is that they offer a comprehensive list of features that competitors are often lacking one or two of. But if you want to explore alternatives to LastPass, here are a few services to check out:
- RoboForm (Free and Paid Versions) offers features similar to LastPass, following the same competitive pricing model. It lacks the ability to export data and is missing a few other sharing features provided by LastPass.
- Dashlane (Free and Paid Versions) offers most features included with LastPass except Application Passwords and Portable Editions - the ability to load the software onto an external portable drive.
- Stick Password (Free and Paid Versions) is a password manager that I’d rate second only to LastPass. It offers the same robust features as LastPass, and I like the user interface, however its paid version vs LastPass’s is lacking a few features like secure sharing. So its price tag of $19/year vs LastPass $12/year with more features is kind of bold in my books.
I hope this article helped you understand how password managers work.
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