In the most general sense, password managers are computer programs that help you control the security of all of online accounts. They include but are not limited to recording and replaying passwords when needed or syncing them throughout several devices. There are many other advanced and useful functions that such managers can provide, it only depends on a particular program you choose.
Types of Password Managers
Essentially, there are four types of this software:
- Built-in managers. These managers are most commonly encountered as additional features of different applications, antivirus suites, browsers and operating systems. This is why they are used the most. For example, the built-in password managers on your Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge browsers can record, save and replay multiple login credentials on demand. This means that when you login to a site once, the credentials you enter are saved and are filled in automatically upon visiting the site again. Of course, you can also opt such additional features out. Some of this software may also allow you to set a two-step authentication, for instance, employing the push notification service. Nevertheless, such applications usually offer the most basic protection, so if you are looking for some extra layer of defense, we suggest looking at the second category — the standalone software.
- Standalone software. The standalone password managing software is designed not only for keeping a record of your passwords and facilitating the login process but also for ensuring your accounts are well-protected. These programs usually offer additional features such as password generators which help create unique and complex login codes and automatically save them on your desired accounts. The best part is, you do not have to remember, say, a cluster of 16 random letters, symbols and numbers yourself as this software will do it for you. Another plus is that you will also be able to sync the changed passwords across your devices.
- Web-based managers. Web-based password managers offer you an alternative way to protect your accounts. These online password management systems allow you to compile secure password databases on which you can also store your sensitive information such as insurance numbers, important notes or credit card information. These web-based tools can also highlight weak passwords and offer stronger solutions. Besides, such applications do not take up your computer space.
- Hardware embedded managers. Hardware embedded managers can be integrated within your computer or be external. The integrated managers come as a microchip which has to be mounted on the machine’s motherboard. Passwords, along with other sensitive data can be stored on this chip instead of a hard disk, so they are more protected from being hacked. Nevertheless, there are some physical risks like mechanical damage or theft that must be considered. The same goes for the external managers which usually come in a form of a USB flash drive.
Some advanced password management software also allows the users to evaluate the strength of their passwords. It requires you to enter all of your accounts credentials into the manager and the issues such as weak passwords or duplicates are then automatically determined. With the help of this software, weak passwords will be replaced with strong ones, and the changes will be synced throughout the devices.
Why do I need a password manager?
Cyber security is getting increasingly more difficult to handle as the evil-minded criminals are becoming more advanced. We are almost accustomed to hearing about numerous social media and business accounts getting hacked and being exposed to the public. Take, for instance, the 200 million Yahoo accounts that were put up for sale on the dark web back in August 2016, or staggering 642 million Tumblr, LinkedIn and Myspace login credentials which were disclosed earlier in June. We hear about such incidents so often but rarely ever pause to think that maybe we should take some responsibility ourselves.
Let’s admit, most of us do not take action to protect our accounts properly. The analysis of the accounts that were broken into shows that the vast majority of users do not bother inventing complex and strong codes and rely on “123456,” “123abc” or “password1” instead. Sadly, there are thousands of accounts that are “protected” this way. Thus, it is not surprising that after running a few malicious scripts the hackers can easily extract these passwords and then use them however they want. In order to prevent the hackers from reigning over our private data, we must take the account security and password management much more seriously. Luckily, specialized software has been created to assist us in keeping our online security at its best.
Potential dangers of the password managers:
We have discussed numerous ways password managers can improve your online experience. On the flipside, committing your most sensitive information to any parties other than yourself is always risky. There are always evil-minded individuals who may try to benefit from the users seeking security. Undoubtedly, there is more than one fake password manager already waiting for the unsuspecting victims online. You can only imagine the consequences of downloading and installing such corrupted applications on your computer. The most serious among them are:
- Identity theft;
- data loss;
- financial damage.
Unfortunately, but these are just a few of the problems you may have to deal with. Besides, you do not necessarily have to obtain a fake or corrupted application to put your sensitive data in danger. Even the legitimate programs can be hacked, and the information that you trust them with can be exposed. For this reason, you always have to examine and carefully select only the most reputable software which, apart from helping you to protect your data, would be capable of defending itself.
Completely secure Internet is a utopian idea, so you always have to be prepared for the worst. If you plan on obtaining a password managing software, check out trusted security blogs and go through the user feedback to pick out the more reputable one. Even if you are not willing to use such software, at least make sure your passwords are strong, unique and updated regularly.
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Information updated: 2017-05-11