Password Anxiety

Raise you hand if you suffer from P.A.D. – Password Anxiety Disorder.  Ok, put you’re hand down, you look silly.  Seriously, this could easily be a thing.  A lot of us have it.  And security everywhere is constantly getting strengthened and the rules always changing to adapt to the ever-increasing rate of hacks and security issues.

This puts more demand on the end user (you), forcing you to have to change your password to comply with the new rules, and and often requiring you to change your password much more frequently, making it even MORE difficult.  Having so many logins and passwords on so many different systems then presents another problem:  No one can remember all of their logins and passwords – there are simply too many!

So what to do?  You’re not supposed to write them down, but people do, having no other options.  Keeping them all in a digital document is bad because, if that document ends up in the wrong hands it opens the possibility of attack to every single system you had access to.  If you make all your passwords the same, so you can easily remember, that also puts a risk on every system you have access to, should that one “master password” somehow get into the wrong hands.

Today’s society is very complicated this way, and it’s only getting worse.  To help with this problem, there are several “Password Manager” applications available that can manage all of your logins for you.  This, again, can present another risk, since all of these applications require their own login, and if THAT gets into the wrong hands, it again opens up possible exposure of all of your logins to all of your systems to the attacker.

But, in my opinion, using a secure password manager is a much better option then writing them down or storing them in a simple document.  Preferably you’ll want to use a password manager designed and actively maintained by a reputable company that hasn’t already been attacked, and one that uses very good encryption to protect your private information.

And, of course, this top-notch security doesn’t come without a price.  All good password managers cost money–either by subscription or a flat fee.  They offer a free trial period, so test out a few if you want to, then choose what works or seems to be the best for you.  But there are some that offer a decent feature set in a “free” version, so you’d have to try them out to see if what you need would require a fee, or if you can get by just fine using a free version.  Here’s a good comparison of all of the current password managers available.

Many of them try to make it as easy as possible by offering add-ons for popular browsers, which–when you’re logged into them–can automatically populate username & password fields on any web page for you.  This can make things pretty painless in most cases, but requires the cooperation of whomever designed the website to as well, in order for things to work smoothly.  Some sites, for example, do odd things with logins, including having your username on a separate page that your password, or displaying the login boxes in a non-standard way, which might throw off the “auto-fill” function your browser add-on uses, resulting in the form field being left blank.  Usually, if this happens, there’s still options available to you to manually either force it to fill a field on the screen or for you to view your login information and either type it in yourself or copy and paste it in.  Either way, it is definitely better than having a printed or digital list and doing things manually.  If you’re willing to pay a little to have another service store your information and keep it secure.

There are plenty of good features in many of the services listed in that comparison, so I’ll refrain from recommending a specific one, but I will say that I do use one of those listed in that article, and their review of it appears to be quite accurate.

Just also keep in mind that using pretty much any of these password managers will add a bit more complexity to your logins by adding options for you.  Some will find this easy to adapt to, others will find it just more confusing.  But if nothing else, they’ll reliably store all of your login information for you in a pretty safe place.  Just don’t forget the username and password you use to access THAT service, however, or you’ll lose access to everything all at once!