Passwords used to be something used only by spies in on-screen thrillers and children in their games. But it’s a fact the more time we spend online with computers and other interactive devices, the more passwords are becoming indispensable. And, with every year that goes by, my ageing brain finds it harder to remember them all.
There are three ways to deal with this problem. The first way might be slightly counter-intuitive and very low-tech, but, as we suggested in the last post, just write your passwords down somewhere and keep them safe. Although if it’s a PIN or something that relates to a bank account be VERY careful.
The second way is the one I use, really because it’s so simple and is built in to my computer’s operating system. I’m afraid it’s only available for Mac users though as it uses Safari’s password management system and iCloud Keychain. Here’s how it works:
Next time you go to set up a new online account, say for Amazon, when you get to the password box, Safari will suggest a password for you:
You can choose to accept that one, or you can choose your own. Either way, Safari will remember if for you, as long as you hit the ‘Save Password’ button that pops up.
Now, the brilliant thing is the next time you go to that site, Safari will automatically fill in your password for you. And, if for some reason it doesn’t, there is an easy way to retrieve that long, complicated password:
In the top menu bar, click on Safari -> Preferences -> Passwords. In the search window in the top right corner of this box, type in the name of the site (Amazon for example) and up will come your login name (usually your email address) and the password shown as **********. To reveal the password, check the box in the bottom left that says ‘show password for selected sites’ and voila!
The last reason I love this method is because if you have your Apple ID set up on all your iDevices, your passwords will sync across your iPhone and your iPad, which is a fantastic time saver and frees up your memory for the good stuff.
The third, and probably most robust way to remember passwords and keep them secure is to get a password manager.
This is an excellent way not only to avoid the wasted hours spent trying to remember that clever, ‘unforgettable’ password you set up for your Ocado account, but it also goes a long way to protect you against hackers. If you use the same password on lots of websites, the risks to your security increase dramatically. A breach at one site could expose all of your accounts. If that password is a lame one like “123456” or “password,” a hacker could get into your account just by guessing. The problem is, avoiding same passwords and lame passwords is really hard—too hard for most of us to manage without help. But the solution is simple—install a password manager and change all of your passwords so every single one is different, and every single one is long and hard to crack. Of course, if a major hack attack does expose thousands or millions of email accounts, including yours, there’s nothing you can do except change your password pronto. But a password manager will change all your logins to crazy-tough passwords like G2#iywoYXq$2T34d or %N!46vY758WEr#*8. And because the password manager remembers the passwords for you, all you need to do is remember one password to access all the rest.
There are lots of different password managers to choose from, so we’re just suggesting three here. All of these can be used for free, although more features (like syncing across all your devices) can be obtained for a small annual fee (around £10). Be sure to read the small print before you sign up – some offer the product for free but limit the number of passwords you can store – up to around 15. If you’re anything like me, you’ll need a lot more than that.
- LastPass 3.0 has been around for a while, and is still a great, completely free password manager. It has a breadth of features not found in the competition.
- Powerful biometric authentication is the star feature in 1U Password Manager. If that sounds like techno-babble, it essentially means that the app scans your face and/ or fingerprint to check that it really is you logging on, and the rest works like magic. The password manager itself is pretty basic though, and it could use some user-interface work. But it’s worth a look, if just to marvel at the technology.
- I’ve really saved the best ’till last. With secure sharing, an emergency contacts feature that passes on your data if something happens to you, and automated password changing, the full programme of Dashlane is not free, but remains one of our top picks for password managers. And even the free version works on Android, iOS, Windows and Mac.
So, no more weak password worries or time wasted searching for forgotten passwords. Please get in touch if you have any questions, queries or comments.