The number of passwords that modern computer and smartphone users must remember isn't getting any smaller. From social media to shopping websites, web-based email to online banking, site after site demands a username and password. As we’ve seen from the latest report on password strength, many folks can’t be bothered to concoct even half decent passwords. And another bad security habit – using the same password for all your accounts – is a really, really bad idea, since a single data breach would totally wipe out your online privacy. But remembering dozens of passwords (or indeed over 200 in my case) just isn't feasible.
That's where password management tools save the day. Secured by a single ultra-strong password – something you can remember but nobody else would guess – they store all your passwords and automatically recall them as needed. The best password managers also function as automated web form fillers for added convenience, and can work across multiple browsers and operating systems, from your desktop to your mobile.
So which password managers would we recommend? The following…
LastPass manages your passwords thoroughly and flexibly, with features that go way beyond most of the competition. It provides effective form filling, along with multifactor authentication options, and security alerts which are emailed directly to the user. It’s an excellent free solution on the desktop and mobile. In the case of the latter, the Android app was overhauled at the end of last year to give it a much improved interface, and it boasts unique tools like Copy Notifications. These create shortcuts in your navigation tray, which you just tap to copy, and then paste the copied password into the appropriate field. It's fantastic for secure apps that prevent you from pasting text, or for your preferred browser.
Dashlane handles all important tasks with a strong focus on ease of use, and a very elegant interface. This password manager impressively streamlines online shopping and even tracks your purchases. As with LastPass, it has a built-in form filler, and plenty of extra options such as digital wallet features.
It’s pretty much the equal of the above program. While LastPass just has the edge for us, Dashlane does have a beautifully crafted UI which makes it a pleasure to use, and you can’t really go wrong no matter which of these two excellent free solutions you pick.
Kaspersky is one of the most trusted names in security software, with its malware protection always coming in near the top of the table in most third-party evaluations. The firm produces this password manager, too, which also handles web forms and boasts a solid range of features. Kaspersky stores your various passwords locally with strong encryption, and offers extras such as a virtual keyboard for PC/Mac users – to help prevent keyloggers from detecting your master password for the program. The downside with Kaspersky Password Manager is that the free version is limited to 15 accounts – otherwise you have to upgrade and pay for the premium program.
KeePass is an open source password manager which is free to download. It’s a very neat and compact piece of software which doesn’t need to be installed, so you can carry it on a USB stick and use it with another Windows machine just by plugging your flash drive in. It offers a strong random password generator, and stores passwords locally, although you can sync to the cloud (Dropbox or Google Drive) if you wish. KeePass is open source (OSI certified), and as the developer notes: “You can have a look at its full source and check whether the encryption algorithms are implemented correctly.”