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LEARN HOW TO USE A PASSWORD MANAGER

Password Manager

PASSWORD PROTECTION: HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST PASSWORD MANAGER

By Jennifer Tucker
June 11, 2024 | 4 Min. Read

Imagine this: you receive an alert from your credit union about a failed online banking login attempt. Alarmed, you contact them and learn that someone tried to access your account from a foreign country. Luckily, they helped you divert disaster; their advanced security measures flagged the activity as suspicious and blocked it.

Still, you’re shaken by the near miss. What might have happened if someone gained access to your bank account? It could have long-term consequences for your financial well-being. You start researching online security and learn there’s a simple tool that can help you keep your information safe: a password manager.

Here, we’re exploring the benefits of using a password manager, how to select the best password manager, and some password dos and don’ts to keep your personal information secure.

WHAT IS A PASSWORD MANAGER?

Most of us are reeling with confusion when it comes to managing our online usernames and passwords. If you’ve ever stared at a blinking cursor on a login page and wondered, “What’s my password?” you know the feeling. A password manager can help you more effectively—and securely—keep track of information related to your online accounts.

A password manager is a software tool that helps you store and manage your passwords securely. It keeps all your passwords in a safe, encrypted database and allows you to use one master password to access them. This means you get a strong, unique password for every account, but you only need to remember one.

Wondering how you see all your saved passwords? Viewing your saved passwords in a password manager is as simple as logging in with your master password and navigating to the list where your passwords are organized. You can usually find this option under a label like “Settings,” “Preferences,” or “Security.”

And password managers don’t just store your passwords. They also act as password generators, helping you create hard-to-memorize (and hard-to-hack) passwords when you create new accounts. A strong password is one of the best ways to guard against unauthorized access to your accounts.

BENEFITS OF A PASSWORD MANAGER

Simple tools like password managers can play a crucial role in safeguarding our digital lives. Consider these 5 benefits of using a password manager:

  1. Security. Using a password manager, you can change all your passwords to unique, strong combinations (and you don’t have to memorize them). The tool will generate and store complex passwords for each of your accounts, preventing the common risks associated with weak or repeated passwords.
  2. Convenience. With a password manager, you only need to remember one master password. Then, the password manager will autofill your login information when you access websites or apps, making it easier to use strong passwords without the hassle of remembering each one.
  3. Efficiency. Password managers save you time by automating entering passwords, filling forms, and updating passwords. Some password manager tools can also help you securely share login information with trusted family or colleagues.
  4. Synch across devices. Most password managers offer cloud-based syncing options, which means your passwords are at your fingertips on any device—your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. This cross-platform compatibility ensures you can manage your passwords no matter where you are or which device you’re using.
  5. Security monitoring and alerts. Many password managers come with enhanced security features that alert you to weak, reused, or old passwords that need to be changed. Some also offer real-time notification of breaches or security threats, which can help you react quickly to secure your information.

But is it really better to use a password manager instead of creating your own password? Using a password manager is generally safer than relying on your own passwords, especially if (like many of us) you tend to use simple passwords or reuse the same password across multiple accounts. A password manager will generate and store unique, complex passwords for each of your accounts, reducing the risk of security breaches.

HOW TO CHOOSE A PASSWORD MANAGER

When choosing a password manager, consider the following factors:

Security. Look for features like strong encryption (AES-256 is standard), zero-knowledge architecture (which means that even the service provider can’t access your data), and two-factor authentication.

Ease of use and compatibility. The tool should be intuitive and work seamlessly across all the devices and operating systems you use.

Features. Check if the password manager offers extra features like password generation, autofill, secure sharing, and real-time alerts to potential threats.

Reputation and reviews. Read reviews and research the company’s reputation for security and customer support.  BitWarden, 1Password and Dashlane are some popular options known for their autofill capabilities, storing payment details, and synching across websites and devices.

PASSWORD DO’S AND DON’TS

Whether you use a password manager or choose to do it yourself, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the dos and don’ts of creating strong, secure passwords. Consider the following password best practices:

PASSWORD DO’S

  • Use long, complex passwords that include a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Change your passwords regularly, and immediately change your password if you suspect or are notified of a data breach.
  • Enable two-factor authentication when it is available.
  • Remember that a password manager is the best way to create and manage strong passwords.

PASSWORD DON’TS

  • Avoid using easily guessed passwords (like your name, birthdate, a phrase like “password,” or a simple series of numbers like “123456”).
  • Resist the urge to reuse the same password across multiple sites and accounts.
  • Never share your passwords directly. If you must share login information, many password managers offer secure methods to do so.  
  • Don’t write your passwords down in unsecured places.

When you choose a password manager and follow these helpful guidelines, you can have confidence that your personal information is secure. Just think, the next time a site you use experiences a data breach and your information is exposed, you can be confident that your information will remain secure thanks to the steps you’ve taken to enhance your online security.

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