You know you should be using strong, unique passwords for every website and service you login to. You don’t, of course, because it’s a pain. A password manager can help. But which one should you use?
Today, online retailer Zappos informed its customers that millions of their login credentials were compromised over the weekend. Horrible, if you’re a Zappos customer. But it’s also a very good reminder that being lazy about your passwords can lead to huge trouble. If your Zappos password was the same as any of your others — you need to change them right away.
A password manager can help you do the right thing. All of the password information for the websites you use are stored in an encrypted file, managed by a single application or web-based service. The password manger deals with remembering all of your login credentials for you, so you can make all of your passwords herculean masterpieces without having to actually memorise them.
Price: Basic for Windows, Mac, Linux: Free. Premium (includes mobile) $US1/month
Pros: Excellent cross-platform support. Manages all of your passwords, as well as additional data in a simple, easy-to-use interface. Allows you to use additional data to auto-complete forms. Great free version with a premium upgrade that won’t break the bank. LastPass will generate passwords for you.
Cons: Interface not as pretty or customisable as 1Password. There was a scary incident last year, since LastPass is web-based.
Overall: If LastPass has flaws, they’re mostly in comparison to 1Password’s huge number of features and beautiful interface. And some people might prefer a locally managed password solution. LastPass is the cheap, easy-to-use password manager for the masses. [LastPass]
Price: $US50 after 30-day trial. $US10 (iPhone and iPod touch) and $US15 (iPad, iPhone and iPod touch).
Pros: 1Password has a gorgeous, customisable interface. The desktop versions of the client will also sync via a Dropbox account with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad versions (available as additional purchases) or with the new and fairly limited Android application (free). 1Password will store almost anything, including attachments, in your vault and allows you to use this information to auto-complete forms. There are also handy touches you wouldn’t necessarily think of, like “Clipboard Security”, which automatically removes passwords from your clipboard after 90 seconds. 1Password will also generate passwords for you.
Cons: 1Password is expensive, and while it now supports Windows and Android, it’s clearly designed with Apple users in mind. The features might be more than you need.
Overall: 1Password is a big, well-designed program that’s heftier than necessary to just keep track of your passwords and some additional auto-complete information. Even if you’ve got the money, why splurge when cheaper alternatives — ahem, LastPass — will do the job very well? [1Password]
Pros: KeePass is a free, open-source application with a sizable user base behind it. There are lots of plugins out there that will make it do almost anything you could want from a password manager.
Cons: Because it’s open source, KeePass isn’t as easy to use as other applications straight after downloading. It’s built for Windows, so you’re going to have to put on your brain and get your hands dirty with add-ons if you want it to run on anything else.
Overall: KeePass is free, which is great, but the average user is going to find it limiting. If you aren’t on a Windows machine, it’s probably not worth the effort to get KeePass to work for you. [KeePass]
Cons: While Clipperz works equally well on Macs and PCs, it has limited support for mobile devices. The “direct login” system is less intuitive than the other one-click systems. While it will store additional information like credit cards, Clipperz is really designed mostly as a password tool.
Overall: Clipperz isn’t loaded with features or support for syncing with mobile devices, but it’s free and it will do the job of managing your passwords relatively easily once you get the hang of it. [Clipperz]
So, we ran down of some of the most popular password managers, but we know that there are a lot more out there. What’s your experience?