We’ll just say it: Creating strong, complex passwords—and then actually remembering those passwords—has become a huge pain in the back. The well-known advice is that you shouldn’t use the same password for everything because it’s not secure, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying because you mentally change through every different password and password you’ve ever created trying to log into a bank account or online store.
This warning to use a different password for each site is certainly true though: According to Verizon’s data breach investigations report(Opens in a new tab), 81% of hacking-related breaches involved misuse of stolen or weak credentials – spammy and overused passwords. And we probably shouldn’t have to tell you this, but having your money or your identity stolen isn’t the right time either.
But even if you can come up with Olympic-level strong passwords, remembering complex, unique passwords for dozens of different sites is nearly impossible, especially when the password requirements seem more like a potion recipe. Capital letter, number, symbol, eye of newt, etc.
So before you know it, you’ve used your three guesses and you’re locked in because you can’t remember your genius combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. And now you need to create an amazing new password once again. So, you try something you think you’ll remember, and just like that, you get an alert that “Your new password cannot be the same as your old password”.
Enter: password managers. AKA your new best friend to help keep your online accounts secure You than throwing your device across the room every time you need to remember or create a new password.
What does a password manager really do?
The best password managers are basically a way to store all of your login information and passwords in a safe place.
All you have to do is remember one master password and then your password manager will automatically fill in the rest, plus more security stuff you may not have even considered.
In other words, a password manager is like a secure list of passwords in your phone notes (or a notebook, if you’re old-school), except that losing your phone or laptop doesn’t mean your whole life is about to end. Hacked.
Password managers can be apps on your mobile phone, plug-ins in your browser, or desktop software that you install.
Some will also help you create, not just store, some super secure passwords that a hacker won’t be able to guess so you don’t have to keep thinking of differences based on the names of your pets or kids.
The best password managers will allow you to secure your devices — like your Kindle or Apple Watch — and even your photos and other private documents that you don’t want easy access to on your computer or smartphone. Think of it as a form of personal encryption to add more security to your digital life.
Things to consider when choosing a password manager:
Do you want the passwords on your phone and laptop to be remembered? If that’s the case, you’ll need to make sure your password manager allows syncing on multiple devices. (As you’ll see, most free versions other than LastPass don’t allow more than one device.)
Do you store passwords for personal use only? Or do you need to share with a group? Some password managers will allow you to share login information with colleagues or family without actually telling them the password. This will allow you to give them access to a site or platform you all use – and remove their access if you need to – without worrying that they might share your password with people you don’t approve of. Others will allow you to set up a family account so that you and your spouse or children can easily share passwords.
Two-factor authentication: With a Google Authenticator app, external device, text message, or something similar, does your password manager require a second form of security to make sure you’re actually trying to log in? Without that, if someone gets hold of your master password, they’ll have access to all of your stuff.
Emergency contact: If you’ve forgotten your master password, you need to make sure you haven’t been completely corrupted. Many password managers are equipped with emergency contacts, which are basically the copy of the password someone typed into your will. This is where you give a trusted friend, family member, or boss access to your master password in the event that you are unable to provide it.
What are some of the best password managers on the market?
Are you interested in hiring a password manager to help make your online life a little easier? We’ve researched a whole host of password managers so you don’t have to. Below, we list six of the best password managers and exactly what each plan offers, so you can easily find the best one for your individual needs. All prices quoted are for the year.