Unless you’re a bona fide genius or you’re gifted with a photographic memory, chances are slim that you can remember a strong password for all your accounts. Yet the importance of strong passwords can’t be understated. Use a password manager to reduce (maybe even eliminate) having to remember your passwords; strengthen protection against identity theft; and, streamline your finances.
Strong Passwords Matter
A recent study by SplashData revealed the most common passwords used are also the worst passwords to use. The #1 worst password goes to “123456” with “password” the runner-up. It’s no secret that strong passwords are your first line of defense in the battle to protect your accounts and personal information. Why, then, do so few people use a strong password?
Likely, the idea of having to remember a 12-, 14- or 16-character password is daunting for most people. Or, perhaps, they simply don’t understand what makes a password strong. While the technical aspects are beyond the scope of this article, here’s the bottom line:
Strong passwords must be unique and random.
You may think you’re making up a completely random sequence of letters and numbers, but the brain simply doesn’t work that way. There is an inherent pattern to human behavior, which is why hackers use specialized computer programs that can calculate up to a trillion combinations per second. So, if you’re using “letmein2018” or “l3tMe1n2ol8” – you’re making the hacker’s job easier. Instead, use a random generator for your usernames and passwords.
Naturally, your next question might be how you’re supposed to remember a unique, truly random, 16-character long password. One question further, how do you remember a strong password for every account you have? (Because you should never reuse passwords across multiple accounts!) A password manager, that’s how.
Password Storage Matters
Have you ever used any of the following password storage methods?
- Sticky notes plastered to your computer screen. This defeats the whole point of a password as it’s pretty public. It’s also a huge distraction to doing focused work.
- A password book (similar to an address book). A book or index card system is easily swiped and inaccessible unless you’re sitting at that desk.
- A document on your computer named “PASSWORD” without any security. Yes, it’s digital, but it’s not protected with strong security. And unless you store this document in the cloud, it’s inaccessible when you’re away from that desk.
Are you still using this method?
No matter how strong your individual passwords are, if you manage them using one of the above methods or a similar system, you’re at risk for a security breach. Not to mention the time it takes to manage your passwords manually in this way – time better spent on something else.
Use a Password Manager
What’s so great about a password manager, you ask? Not only do they provide a digital vault for your login credentials, they can also store other frequently used personal information like credit card details, insurance and tax documents, and even a copy of your driver’s license – all secured by double encryption, synced across all your devices. This means no more multiple accounts with the same website because you couldn’t remember which email you used to sign up for the service or subscription. That’s more money in your wallet!
You can fill forms with your safely stored details at the click of a button – from your desktop, smartphone or tablet. You can also share passwords securely with other people. This is a handy feature when you want your personal chef to order groceries online or you ask your nanny to register the kids for swim lessons. But in both those examples, you don’t want to give them your credit card to carry around or, worse, write down the card number on a piece of paper. LastPass even offers a Family password manager that allows you to store and share information with up to 5 people. That’s a lot more secure than a piece of paper or a text message!
Not every password manager is alike, though. Be sure to use a password manager with:
- Double encryption – Basically, your password is never stored as plain text. Instead, it is transformed into a uniquely generated key (single encryption). Next, that key is appended or prepended with a random string, encrypted, then stored in the password manager’s database (double encryption).
- Local-only encryption – This means your data is secret, even from the company who owns the password manager.
- Two-factor authentication before you (or any other user) can access your vault – One example of this is, after you’ve input your credentials, a verification code is sent via text or email. You must input this code to complete the login process.
- A password strength report that will scan all your passwords and let you know if there are any weaknesses. Bonus: The ability to quickly change those weak passwords from inside your vault. LastPass calls this feature Security Challenge.
- Digital Legacy – The ability to designate and transfer access to a trusted individual in the event of your death or if you become incapacitated.
When you use a password manager along with strong passwords, you strengthen your protection against identity theft and relieve the pressure of having to remember every strong password for every account you have. Plus, just the fact that you use a password manager is going to save you time, reduce the stress of having to manually safeguard passwords, and streamline finances by storing account information in one secure location.
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