Still using a pad of paper or Word Doc to store all your passwords? Are you using the same one or two passwords for all of your accounts, like I once did? Congratulations, these methods completely lack security and I’d be surprised if you’ve never gotten hacked before. If someone accesses or hacks into your computer or breaks into your house, you might as well just be handing over the keys to your online kingdom.
We live in a world where anyone can be hacked, even Mark Zuckerberg. I’ve seen friends’ and coworkers’ accounts get hacked, and watched as they simultaneously felt violated yet did little to nothing about it.
The best solution to protect yourself against hackers is a password generator and management tool. Fortunately, there are several options to choose from which, once implemented, will completely change your life. I’m not joking. It certainly changed mine.
“Hold on,” you say. “You expect me to hand over my beloved passwords to some bit of software and expect me to believe that’s more secure than what I’m doing now?”
Well, actually, yes.
We aren’t just talking about a bit of software here. We’re talking about a military-grade encrypted vault to lockdown your personal information and free up loads of time and stress. We’re talking about systems so locked down, they claim you can’t be hacked into even if they are.
If you think that sounds less secure than what you’re doing right now, then I can’t help you. But I can encourage you to keep an open mind. Because if you’re thinking that all a password management program does is store passwords, there’s more to the story.
A great password manager can do so much more than that. Let’s take a look at some of those features right now.
1. Generates strong passwords
You know that password you use? Yeah, that one. The one you’re using on 50 sites. Hate being the one to tell you this, but it’s not secure. If you're using passwords that look something like these, your accounts aren't as secure as you may think:
These passwords aren't secure because they’re based on words, phrases, addresses, etc. Don’t even get me started with the first one I listed.
Password generators alleviate the human password-creation dilemma we all face by randomly generating passwords that are nigh impenetrable. Here’s one that I just had my password generator create for me:
Does it look like any password you’ve ever come up with? Me neither! This password consists of numbers, letters (uppercase and lowercase), and symbols, in a completely unpronounceable string. You can also have it generate longer passwords if you wish, such as:
Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty secure.
2. Provides ease of mind
When you use the same password for multiple online accounts, a hacker that successfully hacks into one of your accounts can hack into them all. Using a unique password for each account would prevent this.
3. Prevents hacker fairies
A good password management tool doesn’t just keep you secure, it also keeps you in the loop by sending you notifications when it thinks one of your accounts has been or is at risk of becoming compromised.
4. Provides a place to keep secure, password-protected notes
The notes app on your phone or computer probably isn’t on lockdown. For your more sensitive notes, you need a place that will keep them locked down, somewhere only you can access (or anyone you entrust with having access to it). Most good password managers offer a feature for this.
5. Best of all, all you need to know is one password. Pretty rad, right?
Your one master password will give you access to all of your passwords. (I would still advise making your master password something that’s not easy to guess.) Now you can free up your mind for more important things than the continuous eternal question “Which password did I use on this site again—?”
My Password Manager of Choice
There are several great password managers out there. I’ve tried a few of them, and as with any product category, they each have their benefits. While I won’t get into detail about all of them, I would like to take a little time to share about Dashlane, my password manager of choice. Not to worry, I’ll list a few other apps you can take a look at if you’re the investigative type.
Dashlane is a password manager available on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android that works seamlessly between a user’s various devices. A free account with Dashlane will give a user near unlimited access to the app on a single device. To use it across multiple devices, there’s a $40/year Premium subscription fee. Believe me, the Premium version is worth its weight in gold.
I’ve been using Dashlane for the past two or three years, and have found no reason to leave. The standout feature that convinced me to go with Dashlane is its Password Changer. I love how the software keeps track of the state of your passwords, warns you of any vulnerabilities, and automatically changes your passwords at the click of a button. You don’t need to log into each site to change them; it does the legwork for you.
The caveat is that Password Changer doesn’t work on every site, but it does work on many of the popular ones. I’m hoping that at some point its reach will expand, but I’m already a happy camper. The fact that I can change 20+ not-so-safe passwords with one click is mind-blowing.
Just to clarify, Dashlane still monitors every password, even the ones that don’t work with Password Changer, and gives you quick access to start the process of changing them.
One of Dashlane’s most powerful features doesn’t have to do with passwords at all. By entering your personal information in the app (name, email addresses, physical addresses), every time you’re filling out an online form, Dashlane recognizes the type of information the form is requesting and will autofill the information accordingly. If you frequently fill out forms online, this feature will save you loads of time. The digital wallet feature allows you to input your credit card info quickly using your master password, and will offer to save a receipt for you.
The software will monitor how long you’ve had your passwords on each account and encourage you to change them after awhile. When there have been threats or breaches on any sites you’re registered with, you’ll be notified and given a course of action. I actually learned about 2014’s infamous Heartbleed bug from Dashlane. The notification came wicked-fast, and guided me through a solution to the situation right within the app.
Don’t want to keep certain passwords just to yourself? No problem, because with Dashlane you can easily share passwords and other information with trusted family, friends, or coworkers. You can even set up an emergency contact to give access to things if you’re indisposed.
For those uber-security conscious types, here’s some peace of mind: If Dashlane’s own military-grade encrypted system were to get hacked into, there’s still no way for anyone to access your information. I don’t know about you, but that certainly keeps me feeling safe at night.
Other Password Management Apps to Look At
What are you waiting for?
A great majority of people use the same one or two passwords for every account they own. You don’t want to be that person anymore, do you? I mean, you care about your security, right? I’m sure you don’t want to endure the headache that hacker fairies love to smack password weaklings with.
There’s one last question I’m sure you’re still wondering: “How long is it going to take me to set up my password manager? Is this an all-day ordeal?”
The answer is no, it’s not. It takes minutes. You can certainly spend more time than that entering every account you remember owning, but there’s an easier solution:
After you set up your account with the password manager, all you need to do is add your accounts organically as you visit them.
Your password manager will save your passwords as you go and help you change them so that you have a unique password for each of your accounts.
Make sure you install the password manager’s accompanying browser extension if it has one (Dashlane does). The browser extension will help you login to your sites, autofill forms, and generate passwords.
I would encourage you not to make this a “maybe tomorrow” sort of priority. Get on this today, right now. You never know when bad luck will strike, and it’s far better to already be prepared and armed against an attack than left completely defenseless.
If you have an awesome success story resulting from the info in this article, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Until then, all the safety and peace of mind in the world to you, grasshopper!