If you’re like most people, you use a multitude of online applications, each of one requiring a password. Ideally, you’re using a separate, distinct, “unguessable” password for each site. But chances are, you’re not. And you’re not alone.
The weak security link
According to a survey by Digital Guardian, “password overload” is a real problem. Worse, despite known risks, at least half of us admit to reusing passwords or not protecting them adequately. Or using passwords that are too easy to guess.
And if you use this same easy-to-crack password across multiple sites, then it’s just a matter of time before hackers are able to gain access to all of your accounts.
Information security experts recommend that you use a separate, strong password for each account. Each password should be at least eight characters long and combine upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
While these recommendations make sound “security sense,” there’s simply no way you can remember all the passwords to all your accounts. Fortunately, you don’t have to. If you can remember one strong password, a password manager can take care of the rest.
One solution for all
A password manager—some well-known versions include LastPass, Dashlane, RoboForm, and 1Password—is essentially a secure online storage vault for your passwords. Both desktop and smartphone app versions are available. Load them on multiple devices and your information will be synced across them.
There are several features that make password managers extremely valuable from an information security standpoint:
- Remember one master password. Because the password manager stores all your credentials for you, the only password you need is the one that logs you in to the vault. So be sure to make it the most complex password you can think of—and remember!
- Auto-generate passwords. Instead of trying to come up with a unique, complex password for each account on your own, the password manager will do it for you—and save it for future use.
- Automatically save and store new accounts. Adding a new streaming service? Opening a new credit card or bank account? Your password manager will recognize the new account and save your credentials for you, so your next login will be seamless.
- Easily fill web forms. By saving some of your personal information in the vault (e.g., address, phone number, and credit card number), the next time you have to fill out an online form, the password manager will auto-fill your information. It’s safer than storing these details in your browser.
- Log in to sites automatically. Once your preferred sites and credentials are set up, you can access the sites directly from the password manager, which will log you in automatically. As an added bonus, with the browser extension enabled, you can navigate to the website you want to visit, and your password manager will log you in—again, automatically.
Hopefully you’re seeing how much easier—and more secure—your online life can be. Imagine never having to remember multiple passwords or having to go through the hassle of resetting your password because you forgot it. That’s what a password manager can do for you.
Ready to get started?
First, find the one you want. PCMag has put together this side-by-side comparison of what it considers the best password managers of 2019.
Once you download the manager you want, you need to start adding your accounts. Keep in mind that this can be time consuming, depending on how many accounts you have. Don’t worry if you miss a few on this first pass; you can always come back later to add more. This is where the password manager earns its keep. You’ll be able to see, at a glance, which existing passwords are considered weak, as well as which ones are repeated across accounts. From there, simply use the tool’s password generator to create and assign new, unique passwords to these accounts to shore up your online security.
Add an extra layer of protection
Be sure to enable multifactor authentication (MFA). An extra layer of security, MFA will require you to provide two forms of identification to log in to your password manager—your password and a second token, which is typically a passcode sent to your smartphone or an authenticator app. Considering how much sensitive information will be stored in the tool, this step is a must.
What are you waiting for?
No account is completely hack-proof, but using a password manager can substantially reduce the risk that your passwords—and the information secured behind them—will be compromised. And that’s an information security best practice you want to follow..
Michael Flaherty is a financial advisor located at Canby Financial Advisors, 161 Worcester Road, Framingham, MA 01701. He offers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 508.598.1082 or at [email protected].
©2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®