In today’s digital world, where IoT devices, web services, and online accounts are proliferating, password security is a must. And while average users understand the importance of strong passwords, they mostly rely on their memory to keep track of them.
Meanwhile, 53% admitted to reusing the same password for multiple accounts. Considering a strong password typically consists of more than 8 characters and includes a mix of numbers, symbols, and letters (uppercase and lowercase), it’s easy to understand why people would just give up and go with the same password.
However, this is an example of poor password hygiene. Once a hacker gains access to one of your accounts, they can easily use that password to break into other accounts, including critical ones such as your bank. For your online security to be up to par, you must create strong and unique passwords for each account.
This is where password managers come in. If you’re not confident about your ability to remember multiple complex passwords, a password manager can provide the help you need.
In this guide, we will discuss tips for choosing the best password managers to protect your online data.
What is a Password Manager?
A password manager is a tool that stores your passwords for both online accounts and local applications in an encrypted vault (or database). By using this, you don’t need to remember all your passwords. You only need to remember one master password, which serves as the key to unlock your vault.
However, a password manager does more than provide a safe space for your passwords. Depending on which one you choose, a password manager can also create strong passwords for you, send you notifications whenever there’s a suspicious login attempt, and even sync your passwords across multiple devices.
Why Use a Password Manager?
It goes without saying that a password manager is there to help you keep your passwords secure so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting them – or worse, having your accounts hacked into.
But there are more reasons you should use a password manager:
1. It can generate strong and secure passwords for you
If you can’t be bothered to think of a strong password every time you sign up for a new account, you can let your password manager do the work for you. Password managers have algorithms that generate passwords that are difficult to crack.
They are also generated randomly, meaning you don’t have to worry about them being used elsewhere.
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2. It helps save time
Let’s say you don’t remember a password for one of your online accounts. A common habit is to reset the password. But this can be time-consuming, especially if you need to access multiple accounts in one sitting.
Instead of resetting, you can simply look up your password using your password manager and get back into the account in no time.
Or even better, you can have the password manager fill in your login credentials for you. This latter method saves you time from having to type out your passwords each time. It also helps prevent typos and other errors that could lead to account lockouts or even hacking attempts.
3. It can alert you to a phishing attack
Phishing is an online fraud where attackers try to extract sensitive information from you by posing as a trusted entity or service. Hackers often use phishing emails with malicious links that, when clicked, can lead to malware being installed on your computer, or simply stealing your login credentials and other personal data.
Phishing can also take the form of fake websites that look almost identical to the official ones. Password managers can help protect you from these attacks by warning you if a website appears suspicious or is not legitimate.
You’ll also know if a website is fake if the password manager refuses to fill in your login credentials.
4. It helps keep your passwords backed up and synchronized across devices
Having the same password on more than one device is a security risk, so it’s essential to ensure all your devices are updated with the latest version of each password.
A password manager can make this process easier by automatically syncing all of your passwords across different devices and making regular backups in case something goes wrong. That way, you’ll always have access to your most current passwords no matter where you go or which device you use.
Are Password Managers Safe?
If a password manager is another software or app that stores your passwords, will it not be prone to hacking as well?
Well, this is a valid concern.
And unfortunately, password managers have been hacked before. LastPass, one of the biggest password managers with 25 million users, confirmed it was hacked last August 2022.
However, it can still be argued that password managers are generally safe. Every password manager has its own security protocols, which usually include encryption algorithms and two-factor authentication, both of which are strong defenses against cyber attacks.
The best password managers also use zero-knowledge architecture, meaning they only store an encrypted version of your passwords and do not have access to the decryption keys.
Or in short, they do not keep a record of your master passwords. This way, even if a hacker were to gain access to the server, they won’t be able to read or decode your passwords.
Types of Password Managers
Before we move on to the tips, let’s discuss the types of password managers available. Generally speaking, there are five primary types: desktop, on-premise, cloud-based, browser-based, and single sign-on.
Desktop Password Manager
A desktop password manager is a software application you install on your local computer. It stores all your passwords in an encrypted form and is protected by a single master password.
The most significant limitation of this type is that it can only be used on a single machine. So if you want to access it from another device, you’ll also need to install the software there.
On-Premise Password Manager
An on-premise password manager is a type of software that runs within an organization’s internal IT infrastructure and stores passwords in a secure database or vault. It requires dedicated hardware setup and maintenance by the company’s IT staff and provides enhanced security since all passwords are kept in-house.
This type is usually reserved for enterprises that host their own data centers and networks. Naturally, it is more expensive, as the companies need to shoulder overhead costs like maintenance, servers, and staff.
Cloud-Based Password Manager
Cloud-based password managers are applications that store all data in the cloud, meaning you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection. They usually provide extra features such as two-factor authentication or biometric authentication for additional security.
This type is very convenient since you don’t need to install any software on your device – just sign up for an account, and you’re ready to go.
|Get to Know|
|Two factor authentication (2FA) is a security process that requires two forms of authentication in order to gain access to something. It’s fast, secure, and becoming more popular as businesses and organizations recognize its many merits.|
The most obvious benefit of 2FA is that it greatly reduces the risk of unauthorized access to sensitive information by requiring a second form of authentication in addition to traditional passwords. This extra layer of security makes it much harder for criminals to gain access through stolen or guessed credentials, protecting both users and service providers from data breaches!
Browser-based Password Manager
Browser-based password managers are extensions that can be installed on your web browser and store all passwords in the cloud. They are very convenient as they allow you to access your passwords from any device with the same browser.
Popular browsers like Google offer built-in password management features, but third-party extensions usually provide more features and flexibility.
Single sign-on (SSO) is a type of password manager that offers an extra layer of security by allowing you to use one set of credentials to log in to multiple applications or websites.
It eliminates the need for multiple usernames and passwords across different services, simplifying the authentication process while still providing high protection against cyber threats. SSO also comes with additional features, such as two-factor authentication and biometric authentication.
How to Choose the Best Password Manager
With different products to choose from, selecting the best password manager to protect your online data can be an intimidating task. To help you make a decision, here are some critical factors to consider.
Research the Different Types of Password Managers
Before choosing the best password manager for your needs, it’s crucial to understand what type of password manager is available and how each one works. As mentioned, there are different types on the market. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages that should be considered when deciding.
Look at Security Features
Security should be your top priority when choosing a password manager. Make sure your product offers robust security features such as two-factor authentication and end-to-end encryption.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an important security feature that provides an extra layer of protection against malicious actors attempting to gain access to your data. It requires a user to provide two pieces of information to log in—typically a password and a one-time code.
This means that even if someone could gain access to your account, they would still need the second factor of authentication before doing anything with it.
Consider whether the provider follows the zero-knowledge protocol, which ensures that your data is only visible to you. In the event of a breach, the attacker will not be able to access any of your data.
Consider Ease of Use
The best password manager should be easy to use. The user interface should be intuitive and straightforward so that you can quickly access your data without having to go through any steps.
There’s a simple reason for this; if you are in a time crunch or you’re worried about threats, you don’t want to jump through hoops just to retrieve a password!
By the same token, if the provider offers a mobile app, ensure it’s responsive and runs smoothly on different devices. The last thing you want is a glitchy app that makes things harder than they need to be.
Explore Extra Features
Apart from providing data security, the best password manager should also come with additional features that can help you manage your passwords more effectively. Examples of these features include dark web monitoring, automated backups, and secure sharing of accounts.
Some password managers notify you if a website you use has been breached, while others point out whether you’re using the same password for multiple accounts. The more features a password manager has, the better your security will be.
Finally, one of the most important things to consider when choosing a password manager is pricing. Different solutions offer different tiers of service and pricing plans, so make sure you compare them to find the best deal for your needs.
Additionally, some services offer additional features that may be worth paying extra for, such as secure cloud storage or advanced encryption options.
Keep in mind that if you choose a free version of a password manager, you may end up compromising on some of the most important security features, such as two-factor authentication and zero-knowledge protocol support.
Therefore, it’s best to opt for a paid version of the product, which can provide better security at an affordable price point.
How Else Can You Secure Your Online Accounts?
You can never be too secure when it comes to your online accounts. In addition to choosing the best password manager, consider implementing other security measures as well:
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) – Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection when it comes to logging into your account. Instead of just entering a username and password, you will also enter a code sent via text message or generated by an authenticator application.
- Use a secure VPN connection – A Virtual Private Network (VPN) provides end-to-end encryption for all data that passes through it, making sure your information stays safe even if someone intercepts it in transit.
- Regularly update your passwords – Even if you have a secure password manager, it’s still recommended to change your passwords every once in a while. This way, even if someone manages to gain access to one of your accounts, they won’t be able to use the same credentials for other services.
- Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi networks – Public Wi-Fi networks are particularly vulnerable to attacks. Avoid connecting to them entirely or use a secure VPN whenever you do. Moreover, when you’re on public Wi-Fi, refrain from accessing sensitive data.
In closing, password managers are an invaluable tool for users looking to securely store and manage their online accounts. By creating unique and complex passwords, users can ensure their credentials remain secure while also having the convenience of not having to remember multiple passwords.
Furthermore, password managers offer enhanced security by encrypting user data before storing it in a secure cloud-based server and providing two-factor authentication as an extra layer of protection.