For older brains that can’t retain everything, password managers provide an easy solution to memorizing dozens of passwords.
Older brains have less memory capacity. One of the more difficult challenges is remembering all our computer passwords. You likely have one for email, for each social media site (such as Facebook), for online banking, for your healthcare provider, for retail accounts (such as Amazon) and for organizations you belong to. The list goes on and on.
You probably have your own method of password management: using the same one over and over (not very safe), writing them down somewhere or coming up with clever combinations that you think are unhackable, but which you sometimes cleverly forget.
Online password managers are designed to take care of the problem by storing all your passwords in a safe place and letting you remember just one password. That helps makes all your websites secure because you can devise more complex passwords without worrying you will forget them.
Many of the top password managers share some, though not all, of these features:
- Encrypts your passwords, making it more difficult for hackers to steal them
- Stores your passwords, either on your computer or in the provider’s or user’s cloud (online data storage)
- Synchronizes your password with other devices (phones, pads, computers)
- Automatically fills in forms on other websites that want your name, address, phone number, email, etc.
- Automatically captures and stores your passwords when you visit other website
- Works on different platforms and with different browsers
- Audits your passwords and lets you know if you have too many similar or weak ones
- Generates strong passwords for you
- Logs into sites for you
These popular password managers provide the basics plus more:
LastPass. One of the first password managers available, LastPass allows you to selectively share account login information with other LastPass users and will automatically change a password for you if a service you use has been hacked or compromised. The site will monitor your credit and notify you when an account on another website has been hacked. Its set of features support a wide range of mobile platforms and straightforward licensing. LastPass has its own cloud service to store user information and synchronize data. It's free to download and use, but you can upgrade for $12 per year.
Dashlane. This popular provider logs purchases and orders, shares passwords with emergency contacts when needed and is able to change multiple passwords on dozens of websites with a few clicks. With Dashlane, you must retain your master password, because the company is unable to retrieve it in the event of loss, a necessary side effect of its decision to not store a copy of your password in any form. It's free to download and use, but to sync your password across devices, you'll have to upgrade to Dashlane Premium for $40 per year.
KeePass. This open-source password manager stores your passwords inside an encrypted database that you control on your own system, and does not sync or upload to other devices. KeePass is portable, so you can take it with you—on a thumb drive, for example—and use it on other computers. With the right combination of plug-ins, KeePass can do almost anything you could require of a password manager, which means it can be complex and challenging to use. KeePass works in all windows and all browsers, which means that it can log in to sites that other password managers can't. Plus, it’s free.
1Password. When you change your password, this program provides secure notes for other passwords or notes that you want to keep private. It also offers a digital wallet to store bank account and payment information, and a password "recipe" builder that lets you customize your passwords. You can use 1Password locally without syncing any information to the web. You can even keep multiple vaults for different types of passwords and share passwords with others. 1Password's has a $50 one-time fee.
RoboForm. While most password managers provide only email support, RoboForm also offers telephone support. In addition, it protects you from visiting potentially harmful fake sites because it knows the exact URLs of the sites you log into. RoboForm has bookmarking features to help keep track of your favorite sites. The first 10 logins are free, and after that you’ll need to upgrade to RoboForm Everywhere for $20 per year ($10 for the first year).
“Five Best Password Managers,” Jan. 11, 2015, lifehacker
“Review: The best password managers for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices,” June 17, 2015, Infoworld
“The Best Password Managers for 2015,” Nov. 13, 2015, PC Mag
“Password Management Software Review,” Top Ten Reviews