Having a strong password is vital to your cyber security. Passwords are most secure when they combine letters, numbers, and symbols; some sites even require you to use passwords with a minimum number of characters and combinations that include upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Specific passwords that are just words, like "password," for example, make it much easier for hackers to break into your account than if your password was something like "T9&vH*!2".
Along with choosing a strong password, it is crucial to have a different password for each site/username. If your passwords are all the same and a hacker breaks into your social media account, for example, they will have a much easier time breaking into your other accounts, like your email or online bank account.
However, the problem with having several long, complex passwords is that they are hard to keep track of, and you may be unable to get into your online site or account because you have forgotten or misremembered a password. Luckily, password managers can solve the headache of trying to remember every password or the trouble of locating that scrap of paper with all the passwords you squirreled away in your junk drawer.
What is a Password Manager?
A password manager is a program or service, sometimes referred to as a password vault, holding all of your passwords in an encrypted digital locker on your computer or cloud. For example, a password manager could keep login information, such as usernames and passwords, for your social media accounts, email, work or school accounts, and more. Using a password manager allows you to create long, complex passwords without worrying about how you'll remember each one.
Are Password Managers Secure?
Most cyber security specialists agree that password managers are the safest way to store your passwords. Despite this, a June 2021 Wall Street Journal article stated that less than 15% of Americans polled use password managers. As mentioned, password managers allow you to choose solid passwords because you don't have to worry about remembering them with a password manager. In addition, password managers are highly secure because they are encrypted using industry-standard encryption, like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
Many password manager programs provide site and password breach alerts, security questions and answers, and two-factor or multi-factor authentication—some even facial and fingerprint recognition.
AES 256-bit is a standard cipher (i.e., system for encrypting and deciphering data) used by many password manager services. It is so secure that even the US military uses it. It would take many decades to break this cipher so that a forceful cyber attack would have almost a 0% chance of success.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Below are some general pros and cons of password managers.
Advantages to Using a Password Manager:
- Convenient. One big pro to using a password manager is that they are convenient because you don't need to remember your passwords or keep track of them on a notepad or piece of paper. Most password manager programs and services are also easy to use and add or update passwords. Also, many password managers work across linked devices.
- Password security. Password managers allow you to use solid and complex passwords of varying letters, numbers, and symbols. Complex passwords make your accounts significantly more secure than if you had a password named after your dog, for instance.
- Different passwords. Password managers also make it much easier to create a different password for every account to protect you and your cyberspace further
- Sharing. In the case of your serious injury or death, password managers allow you to share your password manager information with a trusted person, saving them from the trouble of having to guess your password for every account.
Disadvantages to Using a Password Manager:
- Single sign-on. The most significant flaw to using a password manager is single sign-on. Single sign-on password managers can lead to compromising multiple accounts because the manager is accessible through single authentication. However, you can further protect your password manager by using multi-factor authentication.
- Forgetting your password manager password. If you happen to forget your password to the password manager itself, then you may be unable to access the rest of your passwords.
- Price. Although some password managers are free, the more secure, comprehensive ones usually charge a fee.
Password managers are a very secure way to protect your passwords and are much easier and safer than remembering or keeping track of all your passwords without a manager. Also, using a password manager allows you to create and keep track of more complex passwords that you'd otherwise have trouble remembering. However, if you are using a password manager, use multi-factor authentication so your password manager is more secure and all your passwords are safe. Just make sure you don't forget your password to access the password manager itself!