Top Password Managers To Keep Your Data Secure
In the early days of the internet, the average user had little understanding of cyber security. It was common for users to use the same, simple password across all their accounts. While this is the easiest to remember, it is also the least secure method. All it takes is one vulnerable account for an unwanted party to gain access to all your registered accounts. In 2021, this is even more significant. Between shopping sites, online bill payments and streaming services, there are a number of websites where important information is stored.
Many websites encourage users to create unique passwords by setting stricter requirements, such as including numbers, capital letters, symbols and a set character length. While these options help, there are still many users who have gotten used to these extra requirements and still use one or two passwords for their accounts. While users understand this is risky, it is often seen as inconvenient or difficult to try and manage an individual password for each account.
Password managers exist to make managing multiple passwords a breeze. With a password manager, you register your password into a program, which automatically fills in your password whenever you access your account. You do not even have to provide an account or email address; the password manager handles all the login details. Password managers even give you the option to register a new password the moment you create a new account. Many password managers also feature an option to generate a password for you. These passwords are a jumble of letters, numbers and symbols, something no other individual would randomly guess.
The majority of online browsers all include a built-in password manager option. While these are convenient, these password managers are not nearly as reliable as actual password managing programs. The main difference is security. Browser password managers store the list of passwords on your computer. If someone gains access to your computer, they know have the list of your password. Actual password managing programs use sophisticated encryption systems to keep unwanted viewers from gaining your passwords.
How Encryption Works
Encryption is a commonly used phrase when discussing cyber security, but it is rarely explained. Encryption is a process where your data is scrambled, only becoming unscrambled with a proper password. This keeps hackers from breaking into your account and stealing your information. There are four primary methods of encrypting data.
The first is through a symmetric key. With a symmetric key, your stored password is automatically scrambled after you enter it. If a hacker manages to get into your system, your passwords are scrambled and unusable to the hacker.
The second method is hashing your password. With hashing, your computer uses an algorithm to turn your password into a different strings of numbers and letters. Without knowledge of the algorithm, it is impossible for a hacker to decode the password. The next process, salted, uses a similar process. When your password is salted, a set of numbers and letters are added to either the beginning or end of your password.
The last option is known as a public key, and is largely used by businesses. With a public key, users are given a general password which grants limited access to an account. Other portions of the account are locked out without a private key, which contains the encoded password. In the business world, this allows employees access to the necessary files and account for their job, without granting them access to more sensitive information, like customer information.
LastPass is a popular password manager because of the price. While it was previously free across all platforms, in 2021 LastPass changed their account options. Now, you can get a free account for either your desktop or phone, not both. If you want to use your account across multiple platforms, you must pay for a premium account, which is $36 a year. If you want to share that account with friends or family members, you can buy a family package for $48 a year.
As of writing, 1Password costs $35 a year for an account, but there is a 14-day trial version available. In addition to storing passwords, 1Password also lets you store up to 1 GB of documents, protecting your files with an encryption algorithm. You can also enable two factor authentication for additional security. The program also contains a travel mode. When enabled, travel mode makes your data completely inaccessible until you turn it off. This allows you to travel with your password manager without having to worry about a hacker getting your information from a vulnerable network.
Bitwarden does not have as many extra features as other password managers, but it is one of the most affordable managers on the market. The basic version is free and acts solely as a password manager. If you pay $10 a year for a premium account, you gain access to encrypted file storage. $12 allows you to share the account with five other users. Bitwarden is compatible with private browsers, including Brave and Tor.