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Pros and cons with different kinds of password managers

David Wibergh, about Online Privacy

All of us use passwords, PIN codes, or some other kind of authentication to access websites, withdraw money from the ATM, or verify our identity online. Websites are usually the big thing, seeing that we are usually members of many websites, with many passwords to manage. The goal of this article is to untangle the pros and cons with the different kinds of solutions that are out there and to find which one suits you the best.

These days, seeing that we don’t know how securely websites are managing our passwords, it’s extremely important to use strong and unique passwords. In addition, a hacked website can spell disaster as their user data can be spread freely on the internet. If you are using a strong password, it will be considerably harder to figure out the plain text if the password is hashed.

Having unique passwords means having different passwords for all websites, which is advantageous because if one of your passwords is spread, it will not work on sites other than the one where it came from.


Writing your passwords on a piece of paper

Many people use the very simple method of writing down their password on a piece of paper or a “post-it” note. The advantage of this method is that it is completely portable and very simple, but unfortunately, there are also many downsides to this method.

If you lose or destroy the note, there isn’t a whole lot you can do. In addition, if anyone has physical access to the place where you keep the note, they can easily take a photo of it or steal it.

This is one of the worst methods as there is no one else but you protecting the password. One way of doing it is keeping half, or a part of the password, on paper and remembering the other part — a much better technique but still not a great one.


Keeping your passwords in your head

We can keep some of our passwords in our head, and this is actually one of the best methods as it is completely portable and the password is only stored right there in your head. Of course, the downside to this is the difficulty in remembering many passwords, increasing the risk of reusing passwords, which isn’t good at all. There are a couple of solutions to this, for example always using the same password followed by the site you are logging in to, e.g: passw0rd_hotmail.com, passw0rd_google.com, and passw0rd_reddit.com.

Still, though, this method isn’t the best, but it can be OK to use in some situations, for instance in places where you don’t have access to a password manager when using PIN codes or logging in on public computers or systems.


Password manager

A password manager is a program or a plugin in your browser that encrypts and stores your passwords. Some password managers have multiple functions and can generate secure passwords, automatically fill in user data in the login fields, perform security tests, and so on.

Using a password manager is strongly recommended as it is the only efficient way of accessing many strong and unique passwords. There are a couple of password managers out there, and all of them have their own pros and cons. Some are more suitable than others, depending on how you are using your browser.

Some of the alternatives aren’t open source code, which makes it harder for the ones who are trying to find back doors in the product, while others use the cloud to save all data. Still others allow the user to save the data wherever he or she chooses.


Lastpass

Lastpass is one of the best-known password managers and offers much more than just password management. With Lastpass, you can generate strong passwords, check which sites you are recommended to update your password on, make security tests that check if you have reused passwords on different websites, etc.

Pros: Free, very automatized, has many functions, and very flexible

Cons: Not open source, cloud-based


Keepass

Keepass is another well-known password manager used by many. The main selling point is that it is completely open source. In addition, there are many plugins and ports of the application. It is completely offline, so you don’t have to trust anyone with your passwords.

Pros: Open source, many plugins, and not cloud-based

Cons: Not many functions and a bit more to keep track of.


1Password

1Password or 1Pass is a password manager created by Agilebits that has many functions. It has the best from two worlds: plugins to most browsers, and the ability to automatically fill in account details and log in. In addition, you have complete control over the passwords since you can store them locally.

You pay about $50 for the application, but it is absolutely worth it if you care about your security. If the price puts you off, you can try it out for a week and see if you like it before you decide to buy a license.

Pros: Very simple, complete control of passwords, and flexible; available for computers and mobile devices with simple and secure synchronization

Cons: Not free


Encryptr

Encryptr is unique in the way that it is completely FOSS (Free and open-source) but at the same time uses the cloud to store passwords. Encryptr is very simple and is currently not using a plugin to your browser, but it is a good alternative if you want something that is open and at the same time cloud-based.

Pros: Free, simple, open source

Cons: Few functions, no plugin


Conclusion

To sum it up, it is clear that a password manager is the best way of storing your passwords. But keeping your passwords in your head can also be a good solution if you don’t have access to a password manager.

Personally, 1Password is a favorite since it is very easy to get started with and gives a lot of freedom and choices. Functionally, Lastpass is not far behind and does maintain the benefit of being free.

If you are not using a password manager at the moment, give it a shot! Having secure passwords should not be a hassle these days, and with this blog post, we hope to have given you some more information about what alternatives are out there and what their pros and cons are.

David Wibergh