Jason R. Rich is a consumer electronics expert who hosts the Featured App of the Week podcast and contributes articles to many publications.
One of the biggest problems web surfers have these days is keeping track of all of their usernames and passwords. While there are a handful of solutions, few are actually secure or even practical.
The focus of this article is to introduce you to password manager apps, and to provide information about two popular and highly rated password managers available for smartphones and tablets.
Instead of using a password manager, many people keep a handwritten list of their usernames and passwords on a sheet of paper or within a small notebook that they carry around with them in a wallet or purse, or keep next to their computer.
If that list were ever to get lost or stolen, whomever obtains that list would then have full access to all of your online banking accounts, online shopping accounts, and be able to sign into all of your frequented websites and online serves as you. Hence, keeping a handwritten list of your passwords is not a good idea.
Another all too common way for people to keep track of and remember their usernames and passwords is to use the same usernames and passwords for all of their online accounts. This too can be a huge security problem if a hacker or cybercriminal figures out the one username and password you typically use. That person would then have full access to everything you do online.
Thus, it’s a really good strategy to use a different username and password, or at least a different password, for each of your online accounts. This is something that I can’t stress strongly enough!
Another more viable option for remembering all of your usernames and passwords is to use a password manager mobile app. This is functionality that’s already built into many web browsers. However, in some cases, password managers are available as independent mobile apps for your smartphone or tablet.
Many of these same password managers also work with Windows PCs and Macs, so you always have access to your usernames and passwords whenever and wherever you need them.
A password manager is basically a secure and encrypted database that allows you to organize and store all of your usernames and passwords in one place, in a digital format.
The database is password protected and encrypted, and depending on which password manager you use, you can typically sync between all of your own mobile devices and computers.
In other words, to securely keep track of all of your usernames and passwords, and in some cases, the credit or debit card information you use in conjunction with specific websites, you only need to remember one password in order to access and unlock the single password manager app you choose to use.
To find a reliable password manager app that works with your smartphone and/or tablet, and potentially with your computer as well, visit the App Store if you’re an iPhone or iPad user, or visit the Google Play Store if you’re an Android mobile device user. Within the Search field, enter the search term “password manager.”
You’ll quickly discover several password manager mobile apps. Most are initially offered for free. However, if you want to sync your password database between all of your computer and mobile devices, or if you want to unlock all of the password manager’s features and functions, you’ll need to pay a monthly subscription fee to use the app.
Thus, to take full advantage of a password manager, plan on spending between $30.00 and $50.00 per year, based on which password manager mobile app you choose to use.
After reviewing password manager apps listed within the App Store, for example, I chose two to talk more about in this episode, based on their popularity, high ratings, and positive reviews.
An app called 1Password has an average star-based rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars, based on more than 20,000 reviews on the App Store. The name of this app is the number one, followed by the word “password.”
This app is its well-designed, intuitive, and offers an attractive user interface. Using the 1Password app, you can store all of your usernames and passwords in a secure and well-organized way.
The app itself is available for free. The 1Password service then offers a 30-day free trial. After that, you’ll need to pay a subscription fee to continue using the app. You can either pay $3.99 per month on a month-to-month basis, prepay $8.99 for six months, or pre-pay $35.99 for a full year. Discounted family subscriptions are also available.
Upon installing and launching the 1Password app on your mobile device, you’ll be instructed to set up an account.
You’ll first need to choose a paid subscription option, which you can cancel any time before the 30 day free trial ends and not be charged. The subscription fee is ultimately charged as an in-app purchase through the App Store or Google Play Store.
You’ll then be asked to provide your email address, and then confirm it using a six-digit code that’s provided by the app developer. The next step is to enter your full name, and then create a Master Password for your account.
It’s essential that you choose a password that you will remember, as this password will be used to access and unlock your entire password database moving forward. In this case, the password must be at least 10 characters long.
As a general rule, anytime you’re asked to create a new password for any type of account, it should be at least 6 to 10 characters long, and mix and match upper- and lower-case letters. It should also include at least one or more random numbers. In some cases, you’ll be instructed to include a random character, such as a punctuation mark, as part of the password you’re creating.
The passwords you choose should never be obvious. For example, never use the word “Password” as your password, since this is the number one most popular password used by people around the world.
Also refrain from using your name, your spouse’s name, your pet’s name, your birthday, your anniversary, or a number or letter sequence, such as 12345678, 87654321, 1122334455, abcdefgh, or anything that someone will easily be able to figure out.
Anyway, getting back to the 1Password app, create and confirm your Master Password to finish establishing your account. You’ll now be prompted to turn on the Auto Fill option. When you do this, each time you want to return to a website you’ve previously visited, the 1Password app will automatically enter your username and password, so you can sign in quickly and automatically.
Now that your 1Password account and database has been set up, you can begin entering and organizing your account usernames and passwords.
The app will also help you generate ultra-secure passwords, comprised of random letters and numbers, when applicable. You can, however, choose to create your own passwords for new accounts moving forward.
In addition to usernames and passwords associated with websites, 1Password can be used to remember account numbers, passwords, and other private information related to other types of accounts, such as credit cards, bank accounts, your driver’s license, or your passport. You’re then able to sort your database into categories.
Another popular password manager app that I like is called Dashlane. On the App Store, it has a 4.7 out of 5 average star-based rating, based on more than 36,000 reviews. More than 14 million people currently use the Dashlane app.
The Dashlane app maintains a secure and encrypted database of all of your usernames, passwords, and related information. The database can be set up to sync between all of your own computers and mobile devices.
Another great benefit of the Dashlane app is that it has a built-in virtual private network or VPN, which makes your Internet surfing activities even more secure.
The Dashlane app itself is free. However, to unlock all of the app’s features and functions, you’ll need to subscribe to the Dashlane Premium service. This costs $59.99 per year.
Just like when using 1Password, when you launch the Dashlane app for the first time, you’ll need to is create and confirm a Master Password for your database. You then need to provide your email address.
Dashlane also offers an intuitive user interface which displays a logo for the majority of the accounts you’ll store within the app. The Dashlane app also helps you easily link your computer’s web browser with your mobile device to sync your usernames and passwords.
When it comes to adding usernames and password to the Dashlane database, the mobile app walks you through the process and makes it quick and easy. The app can even create passwords for you when needed.
Since all of us need to keep track of dozens, perhaps hundreds of usernames and passwords, I strongly recommend using a password manager application. Because there are so many available, do a little research and find one that’ll work best for you and your personal needs.
Obviously, the goal is to keep all of your account usernames and passwords safe, secure, and private in the easiest and most cost effective way possible.
In addition to the apps I mentioned, also look into using Apple’s free iCloud Keychainfeature that’s built into all iPhones, iPads, and Macs. There’s also the free Google Password Manager app that’s available for Android-based mobile devices and the Chrome web browser, for example.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Jason R Rich