Using a password manager is a simple and effective way to improve your online security and make your digital life more convenient.
What is a password manager?
A password manager is a software tool that securely stores and manages passwords for your online accounts, from banking to social media. It works by creating a database to store all of your passwords in an encrypted format and protects them from unauthorized access. Currently, there are a variety of password managers on the market, including LastPass, Dashlane, LogMeOnce, and Bitwarden.
When you create a new account, the password manager will typically offer to generate a strong, unique password for you, which you can then save in the manager’s database. When you need to log in to an account, you can use the password manager to retrieve the account’s login information and automatically fill it in for you. Most password managers also offer additional features, such as the ability to categorize your passwords, automatically change your passwords on a regular basis, and generate secure passwords for you.
To use a password manager, you first create a master password that you’ll use to access the password manager itself. This master password should be strong and unique, have multi-factor authentication enabled, and should not be used for any other purpose.
What constitutes a strong password?
Avoid generic passwords that include things such as your name, your company name, the word “password,” and any sequential numbers. Instead, your password should include both upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, special characters, and random words with no connection to each other.
Be sure to use a different password for every site. If you re-use the password at multiple locations, a leak may allow hackers to use that leaked password to access other accounts associated with your email addresses.
What are the benefits to using a password manager?
Password managers help to generate strong, unique passwords for every account and store them in an encrypted database. This eliminates the need to use weak or easy-to-guess passwords that are easy for you to remember and prevents the reuse of the same password across multiple accounts. Both practices can leave you vulnerable to hacking and identity theft. They also often have features like automatic password changes and alerts for weak or compromised passwords, helping you to maintain strong security across all your accounts.
Additionally, many password managers sync across multiple devices, including computers, smartphones, and tablets. This means you can access your passwords from anywhere and on any device, making it easy to log in to your accounts no matter where you are.
Are there any risks?
While password managers are generally considered to be a secure way to manage passwords, there are always risks involved in any software.
Password manager providers can be targets of security breaches, like the 2022 LastPass breach, where leadership confirmed an unauthorized party gained access to portions of the LastPass development environment. The attacker accessed and copied “basic customer account information and related metadata” and a “backup of customer vault data.”
While reputable providers implement strong security measures and regularly update their software to address vulnerabilities, there is always a risk of a security breach, and ultimately, you should be monitoring your accounts and following best practices. Following a data breach, all passwords should be changed, and accounts should be closely monitored. If not already in place, sign up for two-factor authentication whenever possible.
While there are risks associated with using password managers—including the vulnerability of a master password and the potential disaster that can be caused by human error—they are generally considered to be a more secure way to manage passwords than traditional methods.
We’re here to help
By choosing a reputable provider, using a strong master password, and following best practices for password management, you can minimize the risks associated with using a password manager. With the top cause of breach being human error, the best way to stay ahead of breaches is by investing in your cybersecurity.
Xamin is a technology, compliance, and security services firm specializing in regulated and reputation-sensitive organizations. As a trusted IT partner, Xamin takes the time to understand each of our client’s unique challenges. We integrate with our clients’ established systems—no matter their size or complexity—and provide guidance that aligns your organization with the right technology, security, training, and policies. And with an unmarred SOC 2 certification, we hold a proven, layered approach to cybersecurity guaranteed to meet the stringent requirements of regulatory guidelines and compliance.