What is a password manager? Here’s why you should use one

Joe Hindy / Android Authority

The internet in 2021 is a very different place than it used to be only a decade ago. Gone are the days when you only visit a handful of sites, all neatly organized in your trusty browser bookmarks manager.

These days, you are much more likely to visit dozens of unique websites in a matter of hours, and in many cases, create a new account as well. According to many surveys, the average Internet user has between 50 and 200 online accounts. The wrong side? Most of us have had at least one of these compromises or breaches without realizing it over the past few years.

Password managers universally claim to protect our accounts and improve online security, but how effective are they really and should you be concerned?

What is a password manager?

1 password vs last

Simply put, a password manager is an app or browser extension that generates a unique and complex password for each of your online accounts. Your credentials are then stored in a “safe” and can be accessed through a single master password, which you must ensure is as secure as possible.

I know it’s hard not to be a little skeptical. When I first discovered password managers, I too was concerned that storing all of my credentials in one place could be potentially dangerous. After all, what if the password manager itself was compromised in some way?

After doing some research, I learned that almost all password managers use zero-knowledge encryption. This means that no one can access your data without the master vault password, not even the developers of the tool or the companies that host your encrypted data.

Related: What is encryption? Here’s all you need to know

However, I was also reluctant to switch to password managers for a much more personal reason: muscle memory. You see, remembering a set or two of credentials meant that I had become incredibly quick at logging into my accounts. No password manager could be faster or more convenient than this, right?

Fortunately, I was wrong. Password managers will automatically enter your credentials for you, even on mobile. It can also save you from password theft viruses that listen to your keystrokes.

How to change Instagram password

In the end, what really forced me to embrace the password manager lifestyle was finding out how many of my own accounts had already been compromised. According to Have i been condemned, my email has been involved in at least 14 data breaches over the years, including a well-documented MySpace password leak from the late 2000s.

Read also : My phone scared me by changing my passwords

If you reuse passwords – as I did, it’s true – even a compromised account can be fatal to your online security, let alone 14. Indeed, anyone can theoretically use your credentials. stolen or disclosed to connect to other non-hacked websites. This low-tech infiltration technique, dubbed “credential stuffing”, has proven to be strangely effective in recent years.

And if you don’t think your password will be identified, think again. Hours after Disney Plus launched in November 2019, thousands of compromised accounts were already sold on public forums. Netflix and Spotify accounts were also victims of credential stuffing.

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How to choose the right password manager

Dashlane 2020 screenshot

With that sad fact in mind, then, which password manager should you trust your credentials to?

Well, pretty much all of the major web browsers these days offer basic password management functionality. In practice, however, if you’re using a lot of different devices, you’re probably going to want something that’s available across multiple platforms that is browser-independent as well. Dedicated password managers offer just that, along with several other features, such as the ability to share an ID with family members or colleagues.

Some premium services, such as Dashlane and LastPass, can also automate the process of changing your passwords for you. However, this feature only works on a handful of websites, so I’ve never given it much thought personally.

See also: Dashlane vs LastPass: The Ultimate Password Manager Showdown

Plus, these additional features are usually locked behind a monthly subscription. Dashlane charges $ 4 per month, while Lastpass is only a little more modest at $ 3. It should be noted that you also need to be on these premium tiers for unlimited cross-device syncing. This can be frustrating because you end up paying for frivolous features (like a full VPN in Dashlane’s case) even though you don’t intend to use them.

If you’re just looking for a strong password vault and nothing else, consider open source options like Bitwarden or KeePass. Being community-driven projects, both offer generous (and usable) free tiers and have been widely audited by the development community as a whole. Hosting them themselves is also a possibility for the privacy conscious among us.

As with many open source tools, their development can sometimes be a bit slow compared to the competition. Still, I’m more than willing to sacrifice features for privacy and stability.

Beyond password management

How to change Instagram password

With these measures in place, you can rest easy knowing that no hack has the potential to compromise your entire digital identity. If you enjoy a good night’s sleep as much as I do, it’s easy to see the usefulness of password managers in 2021.

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