It’s that time of year when we resolve to do all kinds of things better, faster… or slower, or more effectively.
I have a resolution suggestion that you’re going to love, because it is supremely easy to keep:
Use a password manager to help you create and use strong effective passwords.
Previously, I have talked about the importance of managing your passwords, and even passed on some great suggestions for creating strong passwords that are easy to remember. (3 Rural Rules for Internet Security)
But you’re probably, like most people, still relying on your cat’s birthday, or your child’s middle name with an exclamation point, or some other simple to remember password. And you’re probably still using that same password for everything!!
You probably figure that nobody would be interested in your scrawny bank account or online purchasing history and you may be correct. But are you willing to gamble on this?
Hackers don’t target one lowly individual. They’re likely automated, looking for poor suckers who are still using ”1234” or easy to hack combinations of vowels and consonants. They randomly scrape a little here and a little there. Some wreak havoc senselessly, wiping out an easy to access website or blog or worming into an email address book sending out malware to everyone listed just for the sick joy of it!
Having weak passwords is like giving a burglar your keys. It won’t take them long to figure out how to get into your house, your car, your storage unit and more.
A password manager is a good way to lock out the bad guys.. forever!
I have lots of people who read this blog and depend on my advice, so I took my time researching options.
Here is what I came up with: LastPass.com
LastPass is a free service that provides secure storage for you passwords, assesses the strength of your existing passwords and generates new strong passwords. You can pay $12 a year to also access your passwords via your smartphone. And no, I’m not benefiting in any way, recommending LastPass.
Lastpass has a handy system for allowing you to autofill passwords so you never have to remember another password, except for your LastPass master password.
Worried about storing passwords in the cloud out of your direct control? Think about how insecure your current system probably is. On your computer? Those little scraps of paper in your wallet? “Hidden” under “passwords” in your address book?
I did quite a bit of research and read strong praise for the LastPass system among tech bloggers that I trust. Based on their reviews, I set up my own LastPass vault.
It couldn’t be simpler. Go to LastPass.com, click “download” and follow the instructions. I probably have five times more passwords that most of you, and it took me an afternoon to get everything set up.
For most of the password protected sites I use, the setup was simple. After you sign in, you’ll go to a site as usual, type in your password and get into the site. A little gold banner at the top will ask you if you want to save the site. Click it to save and you’re done.
Problems occurred when I saved passwords for multiple accounts for the same site, such as multiple gmail accounts. Be sure you save each site individually rather than overwriting the password for one of the other accounts you have. Read the manual.
If you have any questions, go to the manual. It’s very good, covering every one of the problems I encountered.
When you have all your passwords entered, go to your LastPass vault and click the “security check” button in the “actions” list on the left of your vault.
LastPass will give you feedback on the strength of your chosen passwords. They showed me that 6 of my passwords were extremely weak, and 10 more were used multiple times!
I visited each of these sites and changed my password to a new stronger version created for me by LastPass.
Some have a space for you to fill in your current password. If you click that box, you can “current fill” your password from the LastPass banner at the top of the page. Click to do so. Then click on the new password box and use the “Generate” button on the LastPass banner to generate a new stronger password.
You’ll see all the different options you can use. Some websites only allow letters and numbers. Others require other symbols. You can click and unclick the necessary boxes and generate a new password of any length. Length doesn’t matter because you don’t have to remember it! Click “accept and you have a new password.
Don’t forget to click the “confirm” button that will show up in the LastPass banner after you have accepted your new password. If you forget, LastPass will autofill your old password the next time you try to access the site. It’s a bit of a mess, with you having to ask for a new password via email. So, don’t forget to confirm!
When your finished, you’ll be safe and secure, and you’ll never have to remember another password. 2013 New Year’s resolution kept for all time!
Here’s another past post in internet security. NOTE: Having your computer autosave a password is different from having them securely saved by an online password manager like LastPass.
Photo on Flickr of “Key Note,” an installation by sculptor Michael Christian taken by William Neuheisel