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How To Protect Your Passwords

By Tracey Dowdy

Security firm Splashdata composes an annual list of the world’s worst passwords. The list comprises the most commonly used passwords on the Internet and therefore the most likely to get hacked. For 2013, the winner was “123456”, de-throning last year’s winner “password”. Passwords “123456789” and “password” came in second and third.

Though we’ve all been warned countless times, it seems millions of us still haven’t learned and happily choose convenience over security. And since many people use the same password for their Netflix account as they use for their online banking, a breach like Adobe experienced last year when 38 million users were impacted can lead to much bigger problems.

How can you protect your passwords, and how are you supposed to remember them and keep them safe? The answer is simple: use a password manager.

There are three basic types of password manager and the key is to choose the one that best fits your needs.

1. Desktop password managers allow you to maintain complete control over your passwords. Apps are downloadable and allow you to store login information on your PC or Mac. The downside is that you have limited access to those passwords – if you aren’t sitting in front of your computer when you need that login information you’ve forgotten, you’re out of luck.
Options: MyPadlock, KeePass (free)

2. Online password manager services are web based. You don’t need to download software and passwords are available to you anywhere you have access to the Internet. For example, Norton Identity Safe works across platforms (Windows PCs, Macs, iOS and Android devices ), allowing you easy access to your login information. It can also store credit card information.
Options: Passpack, my1login, Clipperz (free); RoboForm (free for 10 logins then fee based); LastPass (free for desktop app, or $12 per year for a premium account with access to mobile apps)

3. Password manager apps for smartphones put your password in the palm of your hands. The danger here is that if your phone is ever lost or stolen, your data may be vulnerable.
Options: Quick Password Manager (iOS - $0.99); Secrets for Android (Android - free)

Whatever you choose, remember the wisdom of astronomer and author, Clifford Stoll: “Treat your password like your toothbrush. Don’t let anybody else use it, and get a new one every six months.”

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, Ontario. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology.

Comment by Tracey, posted 1/29/2014, 1:46 PM:

Thanks for the tip Allison!
Comment by Alison C, posted 1/28/2014, 2:42 PM:

There's a keepassdroid app for Android phones that syncs with KeePass when you store the database in a program like Dropbox. My passwords are accessible whenever I need them.
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