We’ve talked about the importance of a well-chosen password in an earlier article. The basic rule is that you don’t choose passwords that can easily be lined to you, like your date of birth, your pet’s name or the street you live on. It’s better to opt for random range of letters, figures and symbols, like “tH33k!ck3r” or “mVIgiLo1403”. The problem is that it’s best to use a different password for every site. Which means you have to find a way to remember those strange passwords. That’s why a lot of people store passwords, make a list on their PC or jot them down on a piece of paper they keep close to their computer or laptop.
Do we need to say that lists are not a good idea? Whomever grabs your list (or photographs it so you don’t know it’s been copied) has complete access to your whole digital life.
And when your laptop gets stolen, it’s usually short work for a hacker to get into your files. Besides: when you’re on the road and surfing on your phone, do you take the password note with you?
A user-friendly solution to this problem is to use a password manager. These are light software tools that create and store passwords for every site. So the only password you need to remember is the one that gives you access to your password manager. You can install password managers on your web browsers and on your smartphone. Every time you create a new password, be it on your computer or on your phone, this is synchronised to all your devices. Go back to that web site, and your password manager will automatically prefill your login and password data.
There are a lot of different password managers out there. Dashlane, Keepass, 1Password and LastPass have become household names in the business. They are often free to download but require payment to have the full functionality. Synchronising across multiple devices is usually one of the options you should pay for, although LastPass offers this for free in its basic version.
Paying customers also get access to small extras, such as the option to share passwords safely with relatives, or the use of “two step authentication.”
This last one requires a bit of explanation. Two step authentication is an additional protection, on top of the regular password. Logging in is done in two steps where you show your identity by providing the correct password and a second time by scanning your fingerprint, with a code that is sent to your mobile phone or with a special USB stick you need to plug in. Lots of well known websites and internet services support this type of authentication: Dropbox, Onedrive, PayPal, Facebook and Gmail to note some.
By the way: passwords aren’t the only factor in good security. Read our earlier article and find more tips to make your laptop safe and secure.