Password manager software strengthens the effectiveness of your website passwords by remembering and encrypting them. It has become a necessary tool for computer users anywhere — after all, only passwords stand between cybercriminals and your most sensitive data. However, not enough people are using them properly.
Weak Passwords Are All Too Common
In a recent report, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) pointed out that stronger passwords are a critical defense against increasingly sophisticated hackers — weak passwords are the No. 1 security mistake among users, the report notes. Picking a weak password, it says, is "like closing your front door but not locking it." This behavior heightens the risk of your financial and personal information getting into the wrong hands, and CERT points out that password management is one of the most effective ways to keep track of even the most complex passwords.
Long, unpredictable passwords that use numbers and symbols offer the best security protection. However, remembering them all is nearly impossible, which is why a password manager comes in handy. Password management software can also create effective passwords that are unique and hack-proof. At the end of the day, the only password you need to remember is for the software itself.
Common Features of Password Management Software
Different management tools offer an array of features to help meet various security needs:
- A desktop password manager is stored on a computer's hard drive, which protects only that computer.
- A portable manager, however, syncs to your smart phone, tablet and other portable devices.
- Multi-factor authentication software enables you to access a password manager by several means, such as fingerprints, smartcard, USB drives plus a password.
Here are some useful tips on choosing the right password management software for you:
- Choose software that has strong encryption.
- Check for a lockout feature, which is helpful in case you forget your password.
- Should something go wrong, be prepared to understand how the vendor will reach out to help you — telephone, email or chat.
- Check to see if the software offers identity theft protection and whether it takes other measures to protect against other malicious behavior.
- Be comfortable using the software. Ask yourself if it's easy to use.
- Calculate the costs and benefits. A full featured password management suite certainly brings the best value however there are also free password manager applications that you can download as a trial to test your interest. Certain vendors offer a full suite of features with a minimal up-front or recurring fee.
No matter which type of password management software you choose, you should avoid accessing it on public networks, because your data can still be captured at any time. When used daily, password managers are a convenient solution that can help secure your most private and sensitive information on the Internet.