We’ve shown you how to create secure online passwords and how to set up an additional security step for logins called two-step verification. Two-step verification is an ideal security precaution for anyone who only has a handful of online accounts.
However, since you should never use the same strong password on more than one site (otherwise, if someone gets access to one, they get access to all), creating and remembering many complicated passwords can seem onerous. Especially if you have several online accounts on sites that store sensitive personal information, like credit card numbers or financial details, you might want to consider using a tool called a password manager.
What Is a Password Manager?
A password manager helps you randomly create complicated passwords that could take hackers a long time to crack; it also stores your passwords so you don’t have to remember them or make a note of them anywhere (keeping a list of your passwords on your computer is potentially unsafe.) When you go to log in to a website, the password manager automatically fills in the password for you. You can also look up your passwords in your password manager vault if you need to.
How does the password manager keep your passwords safe? They are all locked up with one master password that you create -and that one password needs to be super-strong.
Cloud-based or local?
Cloud, or web-based password managers will store your encrypted passwords on a remote server rather than on your computer. That way if anything happens to your computer, you can still access your passwords. You can also access them from any computer using your login.
Local passwords are stored on your computer, which some experts believe is safer.
How to Set Up a Password Manager
Step 1 Select a password manager tool based on your needs (more information below)
Step 2 Install the software, including the browser plugin – just follow the directions you’ll see onscreen.
Step 3 Create your account: Choose a master password – this password must be extremely strong and secure, and you must not forget it, as the tool will not be able to retrieve your master password for you.
Step 4 Continue creating your account: Enter your name, address and other personal information – this way, the password management software can auto-fill address forms for you on the Internet, such as shipping address forms, saving you time.
Step 5 Add each online account where you have a password – for example, Facebook, your email account, your bank, and so on. The tool will import the password you already use for that account, or can help you generate a new unique and secure password, and then it will auto-fill this login for you later.
How to Choose a Password Manager
If you’re considering a password manager, you can start by looking at product recommendations from PCMag or Lifehacker. The password management tool you choose will depend on several factors: how many devices you own and use regularly, the level of support you expect from the tool, and which software is compatible with your devices.
Dashlane – a good choice for less experienced computer users
One of the easier password managers to use – and a safe an effective one – Dashlane is compatible with Mac, Windows, iOS and Andriod, and with Firefox, Safari Internet Explorer and Chrome. The free version includes all the basics for the desktop version of the software, or you can upgrade to Premium ($29.99 a year) to sync all your devices across the cloud.
Dashlane has an excellent customer support section that takes you step-by-step through the setup process. For more information on set-up, check out the step-by-step “Getting started with Dashlane” and watch this video:
After the setup process, Dashlane will walk you through some options:
- importing your existing passwords or
- letting the tool generate new, strong and secure passwords for you.
- having the tool store and manage your sensitive data, such as your address/contact info or payment information.
All password management tools have extremely strong security, but it’s still worth it to investigate and understand how your password management tool of choice will be storing and securing your information.