Passwords are a frustrating reality of life online. Passwords exist to keep you safe, so you’re the only one who can log into your devices and accounts and access your information. But choosing good passwords is difficult. If a password is too complicated, it’s hard to remember. If it’s too simple, you can be hacked more easily.
Everyone struggles with passwords, but there are some simple ways to reduce your frustration:
- Use a password manager, or
- Use stronger longer passwords (min 16 characters by choosing 3-4 unrelated words) that you’ll be able to remember.
The simplest fix is to use a password manager, which is a small application for your computers and mobile devices that looks after your passwords for you. Instead of having to remember lots of passwords, you just need one – the one that unlocks your password manager.
When choosing a password manager, look for the following features. (Or just scroll down a little for our recommendations!)
- This is the simplest and most important feature: the password manager has to be easy to use, or you just won’t use it. Read reviews to make sure people like using the app.
- Syncing across devices. This feature lets you set up a password once, so you don’t have to enter it on every computer, phone and mobile device you use. If you use more than one device, you need this feature.
- Two-factor authentication. This sounds complicated, but it simply means that the services and sites you access will check twice to make sure you’re you. It combines a normal password with a separate code (typically a six-digit number) you receive through the password manager. The code changes every time you log in, so even if someone guesses or hacks your password, they still won’t be able to get into your account.
- Fingerprint authentication. Some devices, such as newer iPhone and iOS devices and more expensive Mac and Windows laptops, include fingerprint readers that can integrate with certain password managers – so instead of entering a password to enable the manager, you can just touch the fingerprint reader. This feature is still a little “high end” but it’s becoming available on more and more devices.
Any good password manager will also have some complicated technical features such as encryption of passwords, secure resource usage, self-contained functionality and verifiable design. You don’t need to know what those are, you just need to check to make sure the password manager has them!
When picking a password manager from an app store, also make sure:
- the app has been around for a while (look for lots of positive reviews over months or years), and
- the app is being updated regularly (look for an update in the last several months).
Our password management recommendations
There are lots of password managers to choose from, but we recommend the following three:
- LastPass is free and has the most features (including syncing and two-factor authentication on mobile devices). For $1 a month you can add password sharing and priority technical support. Go to lastpass.com
- Dashlane is also free and has similar features, but you have to pay USD$3.33 a month to sync with mobile devices, use two-factor authentication, or access other features. Go to dashlane.com
- Sticky Password is free as well, but you have to pay USD$30 a year (or a one-time fee of USD$150) to sync across devices, use cloud backup or access priority technical support. Go to stickypassword.com