Between email, social media, banking, and bill paying, I probably reset at least one password at least once a week. And although it’s important to keep you information secure, the rule that passwords should be different for each account is sometimes just a little too much for my overworked brain to handle, especially when the general rule of thumb is to change all of them every few months. So give you memory a break and let technology help you out with these great tools.
A password manager is the best way to keep track of all of your online ids, and one widely agreed upon pick is LastPass. LastPass stores all of you passwords in the cloud with 256-bit encryption, leaving you just one master password to remember. You can use it on just about any browser (Explorer, Chrome, Firefox), and there are free and premium versions available. Once you download the manager, you add all of your different accounts and passwords to the vault. LastPass will also generate iron-clad passwords for you if you simply can’t think of anything else besides your kids’ birthdays. Once they’re stored, username and password information gets filled in automatically when you visit different websites, and you can use LastPass on multiple computers or browsers. You can also store personal information like your name, address, and phone number that can be automatically be filled into forms as well. The premium version costs $12 per year and adds mobile capability for your smartphone, eliminates ads, and gives you a flash drive for two-factor authentication for even greater security.
One of the only reported downsides to LastPass is that it can be a bit more challenging to use on a Mac. Apple takes care of that in the latest OS X Mavericks operating system with their own version of a password manager, iCloud Keychain. This manager also uses 256-bit encryption, and will store all of you passwords across any of your Apple devices. Keychain will also generate hard-to-crack passwords for you, and automatically fills in the information on designated websites. One other feature I like is the ability to securely store credit card information for speedier checkouts when shopping or paying bills online.
Whether you use a password manager or not, it is critical to make sure your choice of passwords isn’t leaving you open for hacking or identity theft. All of the normal rules apply, like including numbers/symbols/etc. and not using proper names or regular words. But with the increasing number of accounts we maintain online (I’m at about 20 and counting…), it only makes sense to use the technological tools available to stay safe and secure.
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