I bet that many of you reading this use the same one or two passwords across all of your websites and apps. For a lot of you, these passwords will look something like MyBusiness123! or catname2015. If this sounds familiar, you’re seriously at risk of having these accounts compromised. If you’re interested in why, the maths behind hacking passwords is compelling.
The consequences of getting hacked range from inconvenience through to personal embarrassment and financial ruin - none of which you want to experience. You need to start using a password manager right now!
Password managers generate a long, random password that’s different for each account.
Remembering a different password for all our accounts is difficult and inconvenient so we tend to use the same password across all of them. This makes all of these accounts vulnerable to hackers. If one of the websites you use gets hacked and has poor data security policies, your password and email address could be exposed. It won’t take long for hackers to simply try to login to major websites with these details. You might even have an account that’s already been compromised - find out at Have I Been Pwned?.
Most password managers include a feature that lets you generate a long, random password for each of your accounts. This protects you in two ways; every password is very strong and no two passwords are the same.
You only need to remember one password.
By using a password manager, you just need to remember one password. You might be wondering if having just one password actually makes your data less secure - if hackers get in to your password manager, it’s game over, right? It’s a fair concern, but password managers use a security model that’s a lot stronger than regular websites and apps. Data is encrypted end-to-end, meaning that your device does the encryption before the data is sent over the internet. You will of course need to choose and remember a very strong master password. Most password managers will also require some more information in order for you to access your passwords. For example, LastPass uses multi-factor authentication, requiring you to enter a random code when you log in. 1Password uses a secret key, needed to activate the software when you install it on a new device.
Sync your passwords across all your devices.
Install the password manager software on your phone, your tablet, your Mac and your office PC. Your passwords will be available to you everywhere.
Share passwords with your team or family.
Most password managers have family or workplace options available. For example, if everyone in your office needs the password to your business PayPal account, you can set this to be shared in the password manager. The same goes for the family Netflix account. You can keep a separate list of personal accounts and work/family accounts.
Password managers feature other useful security and quality of life features.
Browser extensions are available for all popular password managers. This means that you can automatically fill the username / password for your websites and apps from the password manager with a couple of clicks.
1Password has a great feature called Watchtower. It alerts you if any of the services you have accounts for have been hacked recently and prompts you to change your password. It also tells you if extra security features are available like multi-factor authentication (MFA).
Password managers are extremely good value for money.
LastPass has a free plan, so there really is no excuse to not start using one. A family account with LastPass will cost you $4 USD per month. 1Password has a 30-day free trial and then costs $2.99 USD per month or $4.99 USD for a family account. Dashlane is also free for a personal account with up to 50 passwords, and $3.30 USD per month for a premium plan. Business and team plans are also available from these companies.
Getting started with a password manager
It might seem daunting to set up a password manager and then go into all of your accounts and change your password. How do you remember everything you’ve ever signed up for? Start with the most important accounts. Set aside an hour, install a password manager and then update the passwords for your financial services and social media. Protecting each of these with a different, random password is a great start. An hour spent doing this might end up saving your business. For your other accounts, search your email for something like “account created” to jog your memory.
If you value the privacy of you and your family and the security of your business, you need to start using a password manager right now. Most have an easy to follow getting started guide, cost very little and will not only improve your security but also make your online life a lot easier to manage.