Taming Your Passwords
Is it me, or have passwords gotten out of control lately? Actually, I know it's not me -- they have! Every aspect of our daily lives, personal and professional, are now managed online in a different service requiring a password, and they all have their own rules and quirks, so you can't possibly remember them all. If you're about to throw your computer off a ledge in frustration, I suggest you sit, take a deep breath, and read this article first. "It gets better." Trust me.
Does this sound familiar?
Choose a password:
[ok, password entered]
Error. Must be at least 8 characters.
[ok, here's a longer password]
Error. Cannot be more than 10 characters.
[sigh, here's a 9 character password]
Error. Must include at least one upper case letter. Must include one lower case letter. Must include a number. Must include a special symbol Must not contain $.?! Must include eye of newt and blood of a virgin gecko.
Ummm, yeah. Been there, done that.
And the really fun part is that this new password is so unique, you've never used it before and probably won't be able to use it again. And this scene will play out over and over again with each new account -- your telephone bill, your mortgage, online banking, the electric and gas bills, your email service, file sharing services, and so on. Before you know it you have dozens of different passwords and you can't remember any of them. And heaven help you if you run a business and have a whole other set of utility bills, phone services and more. I'm even lucky enough to have manage passwords for all of my client's web services, Godaddy accounts and more. I'm up to about 800 passwords. No lie. It's ridiculous.
In the early days I started by categorizing services into tiers. I had a password I used across all of my "unsecure" accounts. Testing out some new program and it wants a password? No problem - use the "unsecure" password. If it gets hacked, no big deal. Then I had my mid-range "semi secure" password. That would be a little painful if it were hacked, but not the end of the world. And then there were the super secure things -- the money accounts. This approach worked for a while, decades ago, when things were simpler. But even this approach started to strain 10 years ago.
Enter 1Password. My savior.
Password managers have been around for quite some time, but I never liked them. They were cumbersome and clunky. Who wants to have to stop, drop and roll to go look up stuff when you're in the middle of quickly trying to login to do something? And are they really all that secure?
Over time, the convergence of technology and easy-of-use have finally created a winning solution: 1Password. First, 1Password is cross-platform. They have versions for Mac, Windows, iOS (ipads and iphones), and Android. The password "vaults" are encrypted and secure, and they can be stored in the cloud and accessed from anywhere. They even have a browser plug-in so that one click can open a site and automatically log you in. Bam! Fast, and easy. With the iPhone app, my passwords are in my pocket wherever I go.
1Password also supports the concept of multiple vaults. So I can have one with all of my personal logins, and a separate one with all of my business items -- and then I can share the business vault with my team. I can segregate out "sensitive" items (for my eyes only) from "ok to share" items such as our internal logins for our business. Within 1Password, they all roll up and look like one big database to me, while they're actually segregated and and shared according to permissions.
Couple this with the support for iPhone's finger print sensor, and now I have the ability to store and track over 800 logins (urls, usernames, passwords, and other settings), and access it lickety-split quick with the fingerprint touch. BAM! Fast, and easy -- I don't even have to "login" to the password manager itself! Just a thumbprint and BAM! I'm in. (There's a master password backup to this, but in day to day use I love the ultra fast fingerprint technology!)
And now that means I'm no longer worried about having to remember any of these passwords. I just point and click to login. So my passwords are infinitely more unique now - I don't have to reuse the same password across multiple systems anymore, which is inherently more secure.
There certainly are other password managers out there, and I've tried many of them. Some are better than others. In my estimation, 1Password does it right, does it best, and has the most cross-platform solutions (plugins for safari, chrome, IE, Firefox, and apps for all the major smartphones, tablets, as well as both Mac and Windows).
I strongly recommend using 1Password to tame the password beast, and allow you to customize different passwords for different systems, without having to worry about ever possibly remembering them all. Not only is it easier, but it's vastly more secure.