Time and time again, we’re warned of the importance of having strong, secure online passwords. Phishing scams – where legitimate looking e-mails and websites try to trick you into entering in your sensitive login information to a bank site, e-mail host or social network – are bad enough when a scammer is able to compromise your account, but the result can be many times worse if you use that same password for a number of online accounts. Likewise, when crackers breach servers for various web services and expose the user information to other ne’er-do-wells, your accounts could be at the fate of many shady characters.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to use strong, secure and unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Of course, that sounds great in theory, but the main reason we often reuse the same password or passphrase is because trying to remember 50 different logins, each with various alphanumeric strings, is just not realistic.
Fortunately, there are some great tools and services available to users to not only keep your passwords secure, but to also make them accessible and usable from multiple computers or web browsers. Here are five of my favorites.
1Password from Agile Web Solutions is my favorite way to manage, create and securely access my passwords from a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad or an Android device. The program is $39.95 (a family license for 5 users is available for $59.95) but you can install it on as many of your own computers as you want. It’s a great way to create and fill-in passwords across the web.
The application has plugins for all the major web browsers – Safari, Firefox and Chrome, and you can also pull up your passwords from the application itself. The app works like this:
When you’re on a website and you create a new account, 1Password will prompt you to save that account to its database. In the future, rather than having to type it in manually or rely on your browser’s built-in manager, you can just use 1Password to automatically fill-in your username and password data.
Even better, 1Password includes a truly fantastic password generator that lets you create robust passwords of a length that you choose. You can generate a password for an account and then automatically save it.
1Password saves all of your passwords and login information into its own secure database that is stored on your computer, but where 1Password really shines is with its ability to sync with Dropbox. Dropbox is a free online service that lets you keep a copy online of anything within the Dropbox folder on your desktop. That folder is then accessible across computers and devices. Any change to that folder is synced across every connected computer. 1Password can use Dropbox to store its secure database, which means that if you use multiple Macs or want to have constant syncing on the iPhone, iPad or Android, you can.
1Password has a beta version of its app available for Windows. Like the Mac app, the Windows version can connect to a Dropbox account and sync its database with other platforms.
1Password can even store other form information like credit cards, address information, server logins for your website and software serial numbers.
LastPass is a very popular password manager that stores all of its data online (also referred to as “in the cloud”). It works on Windows and Mac and in every major web browser. Like 1Password, LastPass can automatically save your logins, help you generate safe and secure passwords and automatically fill-in your passwords when you visit a site.
The difference is that instead of storing its database on your computer or in Dropbox, it’s all stored on LastPass’s servers. LastPass actually has a really robust set of security around your data and if their center is compromised, your data still can’t be accessed.
LastPass is free to use but for $12 a year, you can gain access to LastPass’s many mobile apps (including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android) and gain access to priority support. It also means you get to skip any advertisements.
KeePass and KeePassX (which is KeePass but for Mac or Linux) is a free, open-source password manager. It works very much like 1Password, in that the database is stored on your local computer. Like 1Password, you can use Dropbox to keep KeePass synced across machines and profiles.
KeePass can run off a USB drive, which makes it a great choice for users who frequently work on different machines but don’t want to leave any of their personal data on those machines.
KeePass isn’t as user-friendly as LastPass or 1Password, but its dedicated userbase loves it because it can be extended and used in a variety of ways. Plus, it’s free.