Pros and Cons of using a Password Manager

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Having a password manager can drastically increase your security against cybercrime. But I often see negative talk about using password managers, so in this blog post, we will look at the pros and cons of using a password manager.  Before we talk about the pros and cons of using a password manager, I should briefly summarise the password problem we all face and how a password manager can combat this problem. We all have many passwords to remember for all of our cloud applications and online resources. If you made a list of them all, it could be over 100.  So as humans, how do we remember all of those passwords? Well, not very well. We try and make it easy for ourselves. For example, we might have the same password for all of our applications, which means there is only one password to remember. Or it might be a variation of the same password – perhaps with a ! at the end.  To make matters worse, the passwords we choose are easy to remember – because it makes it easier for us to remember them when we are using the applications. So a password that is easy to remember is used lots of times. That is great for us but not great for cybersecurity. If someone learns our password for one application, they could have the keys to our digital kingdom. So what is the solution? I always recommend that our IT support clients make everyone within their business use a password manager. A password manager is usually cloud-based, and it’s a place to store all of your passwords securely, so you don’t need to remember them – it will become our password brain. In addition, most password managers will also help you create different and complex passwords for each of our applications – problem solved? Not necessarily. I still see people talking negatively about password managers, so I thought we’d look at the pros and cons of using one of these applications in this blog.  Let’s start with the advantages.  The first advantage is that we will have unique and complex passwords for all of our cloud applications by using a password manager. Having unique and complex passwords is a significant advantage compared to most people’s password health, as discussed earlier.  The second advantage is that a good password manager will work on multiple devices. It would work on our Windows laptops, Apple Macs, and smartphones like iPhones. That means that our secure passwords can be accessed by us wherever we are. The mobility of a password manager is excellent if we compare it to another method people use to store passwords – their physical notebook. What happens if you need a password, but your notebook isn’t with you? The third example is that a good password manager will autologin your applications. So when you go to a website sign-in page, like Twitter, the password manager application will recognise that you’re on the Twitter page and offer to auto-fill in your password for you. So it makes logging into applications that little bit quicker.  The fourth advantage of using a password manager is sharing your passwords with other people without knowing what the password is. That’s great for two reasons. For example, we have one password for our online shopping at home. My wife and I use it. All I need to do is create a secure password and share it with my wife so that when she is at her computer, she can use the password manager to autologin to the online shopping. Sharing passwords in this way is very convenient. In my business life, I often use assistants to help me. With a password manager, I can share my LinkedIn password with them without them knowing what my password is. If I stop working with an assistant, I don’t have to change my passwords; I can disable the password manager account.  Now let us look at the disadvantages of using a password manager.  Firstly, how do you log into a password manager? Well, you use a password. It’s called the ‘master password’. Many people wonder what would happen if someone managed to get hold of their master passwords? Then the hacker would have access to their entire list of passwords? Technically this is true – but the risk of someone accessing your password manager can easily be got around; by using multi-factor authentication on your password manager login.  The next disadvantage would be if the password manager servers were compromised.  As recently as December, there was a recent scare at a well-known password manager called Last Pass. This concerned lots of people. And it reminded people that no technology is ever perfect. In the LastPass security scare instance, LastPass maintained that no passwords of its users were compromised.  How do you get around this problem? First, choose the right password manager that has excellent security and encryption.  Also, don’t just use passwords to log into your cloud applications. Make sure you also use multi-factor authentication for every cloud app you have, and my top tip is to not use the password manager for your 2FA – which is possible with lots of them. Instead, use a completely different 2FA application like Authy.  So there are the pros and cons of using a password manager for your passwords. Is a password manager perfect? No, it isn’t because no technology is ever perfect.  But when we look at whether or not to use a password manager, we shouldn’t be looking at the disadvantages of using a password manager – we should compare it directly to how people maintain their passwords today. 

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