Although we call them “passwords,” the safest passwords should not contain any dictionary words from any language. Hackers buy dictionaries with all of the words from every culture on the planet to help them crack easy passwords. It does not help at all to add a number or special character to a word. All of the obvious combinations and substitutions are already well-known among hackers. You can create a strong password out of words if you create a sentence-long password. However, some sites enforce character limits that prevent you from generating a sentence-long password. Strong passwords use a random sequence of numerals, letters and special character, which makes them hard to memorize. Even if you do memorize one or two, then you might be tempted to use the same password for multiple sites, which is not a safe way to go.
Once you start recording your passwords, a new challenge arises. You could write them down on paper, but then you would need to carry that paper with you if you travel to another place and use a different computer. Passwords on paper increase the possibility of losing or forgetting the list. There are lots of do-it-yourself password management methods, and some are better than others. Even if you think you have a good system, once you step into the world of online password managers, you will discover better security with less brain damage. Feel free to learn more by reading articles about password management. Our password manager reviews uncover the three best password apps: RoboForm Everywhere, LastPass Premium and Dashlane.
We would like to share our methods for determining the best password manager. Our approach isn’t too complicated. We look at the features; the platforms in terms of operating systems, browsers and mobile devices; and the help and support that customers receive.
Most password managers provide access from anywhere. Most synchronize passwords and secure documents among all of your devices. Some synchronize via a proprietary cloud. Some synchronize via commercial storage clouds, Dropbox for example. A few support local synchronization without cloud involvement. Therefore, if you want to control your data without trusting the cloud, it is important to pay attention to what a particular password manager supports.
Many password products have most features in common. All of the password organizers we reviewed encrypt passwords, generate safe passwords and don’t store master passwords anywhere. Some products lack common features. One of them, for example, doesn’t automatically save passwords. Another doesn’t easily complete online forms. Some do not import passwords from competing products. A few do not support multifactor authentication methods.
Platforms can be browsers, operating systems and mobile devices. Features mean nothing if they don’t run on your computer or phone. Some password savers work with Windows only, while others work with Windows, Macs, Linux machines and Windows RT. Some are limited to working with Internet Explorer. But most can also work with Chrome, Firefox, Dolphin, Opera and Safari. All of the products we looked at support Android devices as well as iPhones and iPads. A few also support Blackberry and Windows Phone.
Help and Support
The usual practice for the password management product industry is to limit support access to email. However, there are a few that stand out by giving telephone access and 24/7 live chat. Which would you prefer? What would you be willing to live with?
Folks these days typically have dozens or scores of logins to manage, and the trend is toward more and more as websites encourage registration to make subsequent visits more convenient. Each password must be strong and unique. And you need to change passwords periodically. Secure password managers such as those we reviewed will make your internet activity safer. Almost more importantly, though, is that while you increase safety you will enjoy more convenience than when you managed passwords with home-grown methods.