My clients have lately been asking, “How do I safely keep track of all my passwords”? I have created this quick primer for you on password management. It only scratches the surface of this organizing dilemma but it will get you started on the right foot.
You can record all of your usernames and passwords either electronically or via paper. Both have their pros and cons concerning portability (can you access your passwords on the road or do you have to be sitting in your office?), compatibility (what computer platform do you use and can you access it via your mobile?), and of course security (can this easily be stolen, hacked, or destroyed?) You’ll have to look at all the options below to make your own decision.
Electronic password managers:
These password managers come in the form of software you can download to your computer or a USB drive or in the form of cloud software. Many offer password generators, auto form filling options, and one-click login. Of course the key feature that appeals to everyone is that you only have one username and password to remember which allow you access to all of your other usernames and passwords. Whether you decide to save your passwords on your home computer, a USB drive or online make sure to back-up your lists and store that back-up in a different location (preferably a safety deposit box).
Paper password managers:
- Internet Password Organizer (http://www.internetpasswordorganizer.com)
- Address book with alpha tabs
- Blank notebook
These password managers are easy to store on a desk or shelf, to carry in a bag during travel, and to organize in whatever format feels comfortable to you. Of course if you lose it or it gets stolen, you’ve lost/compromised all your passwords. So similar to the advice above, make sure to make a back-up copy of your notebook and store it in a secure location.
After you choose a password manager, take the time to finally strengthen and change your passwords. More than likely you’ve been falling into the practice of using the same password for multiple accounts or you’ve been using the same password for years on the same site. If you need help creating a new strong password, all of the electronic password managers mentioned offer strong password generators. For those using a paper manager, you can use this free password generator: http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/
Think your password is secure enough? Visit http://howsecureismypassword.net/ to see how long it would take someone to hack your password. It might leave you speechless.
For more reading on this topic, here are a few sources:
Griffith, Eric. Password Protection: How to Create Strong Passwords. PCMag, Nov. 29, 2011. http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2368484,00.asp
Crawford, Douglas:Best VPN – A simple regimen for improving your password security
Mills, Elinor. Facing the Pain of Passwords. CNET, July 15, 2008. http://news.cnet.com/8301-1009_3-9989071-83.html
If using Microsoft, do some reading on creating strong passwords & Internet Security