A few years back I heard an interesting interview with an IT security expert. One thing he said, that has always stuck out in my mind, was that the money spent on tech support for lost and forgotten passwords is greater than the estimated cost of reimbursing damages if users had a single password for all of their online accounts.
In the interest of reducing tech support costs for everyone, I came up with a highly complicated “mega-password” that I would use for all of my profiles. This worked for about 30 minutes until it became apparent that each site’s unique format requirements (special characters, numbers, length, etc.) made it impossible to create a password that worked for all sites. Combine that with different username requirements and the number of possible login credentials can quickly balloon. From what I can tell, I have at least 4 possible user names, and 6 possible passwords at this point. That means that I have no less than 24 possible combinations for login credentials.
In addition to security concerns, managing passwords can take a great deal of time. I have a bad habit of calculating the time dedicated to mundane tasks on a yearly basis. I know that I login to at least 1 website each working day during the week. If we assume that this takes 15 seconds of my life, then I am spending just over an hour of my year logging into websites (15 seconds per day X 5 days per week X 52 weeks per year). When I start to think about how many times I have to remember which password or username is used for a particular site, how many times I have to reset a password, or how often I log into apps on my phone, I start to realize that I could be creeping up on a day of my year wasted.
After looking at several options, I decided that Lastpass best fit my needs. The issues that were most important to me are explained below. You should at least consider these when selecting a password manager.
- Fills in usernames, passwords, and contact information for you
- Form filling is a very basic feature that comes with most browsers. It is an obvious time saver when you think about how many times you have to fill in your address each year.
- Saves you from password resets
- The account recovery process is cumbersome at best, and can ruin your day in the worst of scenarios. How many times have you mis-typed your password one too many times only to be locked until until you have called tech support.
- Provides insight about your digital security
- Some password managers, will give you a security score on all of your passwords. If you’re like me, it will be relatively low because a hacker would only need to crack one code to reach all of your accounts.
- Can generate and change passwords for you
- After getting your security score, you will probably want to change all of your passwords. A good app will be able to auto generate new passwords for all of your accounts and update them. You only need to remember your password to the application.
- Syncs your passwords across browsers and devices
- A good password manager will also have an i-Phone or Android application to allow you to access your master account through tablets and phones.
- Alerts you to security issues
- Make sure there are built in security features to alert you of possible threats and security breaches
- Allows you to share login information with others
- Every now and then you need to share your login information with somebody. This can be scary as most of us only use a handful of passwords. Another great feature to look for is the ability to share login credentials with select users while still keeping the password a secret.
- Provide an emergency access contact
- The reality is that we keep some pretty important parts of our lives online. In the event of an accident, it is good to be able to give somebody access. One feature that I like about my account is that I can specify an emergency contact. If something happens to me, that person can request login information. If I do not respond to the request within a set period of time, he or she is given access.
There are a number of options out there. At the end of the day, a password manager would likely save all of us a good chunk of time and should be considered.