What is a Password Manager and Why Do I Need One?

Password managers allow you to store all of your passwords in an encrypted “vault”, which is protected by your master password. Most of these apps allow you to sync your passwords across devices and will not only generate super strong passwords for you, but will autofill them each time you log in to any of your accounts.
Passwords written on a page in a notebook as a password manager, on top of a keyboard.

This article covers:

Do I really need a password manager?
How does a password manager improve my online security?
What to look for in a password manager?
Do I have to pay for a password manager?
Expert recommended password managers
Features beyond mere password storage

Do I really need a password manager?

If you have a gift for creating and remembering a super long unique password for each of your accounts, then you don’t need a password manager. If you reuse passwords or only slightly change them between accounts, then you absolutely do need a password manager. But don’t take my word for it, It is only a consensus among experts that everyone should use a password manager to keep their accounts safe.

Sure, you might be lucky and never get hacked or even come close to being hacked in your lifetime. Who knows? But with hacking attacks taking place every 39 seconds, and that number increasing every year, do you really want to take the risk?

In today’s world, it feels like I’m asked to create a new account and password every time I go online. Even though that is a slight exaggeration, it’s not too far off the mark.

Companies and websites aren’t asking you to do this to make your life harder; the reality is that every single day private and business accounts are hacked. On ID Agents’ list of password security statistics, it is stated that 81% of all hacking related breaches are due to compromised passwords.

Smart home technology is becoming more popular and widely used each year. Unfortunately, this can give cyber criminals any number of ways to access your home network. A password manager is one of many important steps that you can take to better secure your smart home. With most smart home devices requiring an online account to register for the mobile app, you can beef up your security substantially by creating unique and super strong passwords for each account.

A diagram of smart home functions with an out of focus yellow home in the background

The only thing standing between hackers and all your personal details are your passwords. The worst part is, we know we should use strong passwords and that we shouldn’t reuse passwords, but the human brain was not designed to remember dozens of unique and super strong passwords. It’s not your fault – we simply don’t have the capacity!

Traditionally, the way we try to get around this problem is by simply using the same password for every account, and maybe changing one digit when we create a new password or change an old one. Another way is to write down your passwords and put that in a place where you hope no one will ever find it. Both of these options are really bad ideas for online safety, and completely unnecessary.

How does a password manager improve my online security?

Password managers are the best line of defense against all of the issues mentioned above, and the beauty of it is that you will never need to think of or remember a new password again. While these apps may not be perfect, they are exponentially better than any alternatives.

Password managers allow you to store all of your passwords in an encrypted “vault”, which is protected by your master password. Most of these apps allow you to sync your passwords across devices and will not only generate super strong passwords for you, but will autofill them each time you log in to any of your accounts.

All the password manager needs you to do, is to create one super strong password as your master password. This is a very important step as you need to create the best password you possibly can. If you’re wondering how, here’s a video to give you some inspiration. The master password is the only one you’ll have to remember. However, should you lose it, you lose access to your vault.

Most password managers also feature two factor authentication (2FA) that will use either a one time password or biometrics if you have the app on your phone. This ensures that even if someone figures out your master password, they still would not be able to access your vault.

What to look for in a password manager?

Not all password manager apps are created equal, but there are a few features that can help you decide which one is right for you. Features to look for include:

  • It should support all of the browsers, devices and operating systems you currently use
  • Secure end-to-end encryption
  • A secure vault protected by a master password
  • A random password generator to generate long, super strong passwords
  • It is continuously being developed and improved
  • Independent auditing by experts

Do I have to pay for a password manager?

The short answer is no. Most password managers have a free version that you can use on one device, while paid versions offer advanced features like syncing across devices. If you are willing to do a bit more work during setup, there are many free open source options that allow you to store your passwords on your computer.

It all depends on what you want and how much input you want to have. As mentioned before, open source options are tough to set up, but leaves you in full control of your passwords. Password manager apps are more convenient to set up, but if you want premium features you will have to pay, and your information will be in cloud storage.

You might be thinking to yourself: “My browser saves my passwords and autofills them, I don’t need a third party password app.” Well, browser password managers are very basic compared to these purpose-built apps and most of the browser password managers are not encrypted. Those that are encrypted don’t allow for syncing across certain devices and don’t generate strong passwords for you.

Free versions of most of these password apps have all the necessary functionality that you need. The only drawback of some free versions is that your vault won’t sync across all of your devices.  An example would be that your free password manager would autofill your information on your phone, but on desktop you need to log into your password manager to copy and paste your passwords to log into accounts.

Throughout all the research I did, the same password managers were consistently highly rated, so be assured these apps are highly viewed and trusted by experts:

Apps with free and paid versions

  • Keeper
  • 1Password
  • Lastpass
  • Roboform
  • Myki
  • LogMeOnce
  • Norton password manager
  • Enpass
  • Dashlane

Free open source password managers

  • Bitwarden
  • Keepass

These are all highly trusted and well-established password managers, so you can’t really make a wrong choice. If you find that you don’t like the app you have chosen, it is a very straightforward process to simply export your passwords if you decide to go with a different app.

The same goes for transferring your passwords from your Google account; it is as simple as importing all of them in one go to your password app. Some password managers will even automatically change your old weak passwords into super strong hackers’ nightmares.

A hacker with their face obscured in a hoodie sitting behind a laptop

As with anything you want to buy or when you entrust another entity with your information, it is always a good idea to do your due diligence and look into the features as well as the security policy of the app you want to choose. There are slight differences between all of the apps and also between the open source options.

What is standard for all of the above-mentioned password managers is that they are highly secure. No security solutions are foolproof, but these apps go a long way in making our digital lives safer.

Features beyond mere password storage

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to pay to use most password managers. The only reason to do so is that you want maximum convenience and to save time.

Most password managers will also allow you to store bank details as well as card payment details to make your checkouts faster and more secure. Some paid versions also offer a password audit feature and will automatically upgrade your passwords for you. With paid versions you might also get multi-factor authentication, turning your Vault into Fort Knox.

Picture of a highly secure vault

Many free versions offer secure note storage, and in some paid versions you get an additional 1 GB secure storage. Some premium versions include a virtual private network (VPN) that disguises your IP address and gives you much more privacy when you are browsing. VPN connections are also secure against external attacks.

In Conclusion

Nothing is stopping anyone from continuing to use the same easy to remember, but even easier to hack, passwords repeatedly. The majority of people are unaware of password managers. You have no excuse however, especially as it won’t cost you anything unless you choose to pay. Secure your online accounts with a password manager today!

What to do next?

If you found this article informative and would like to know more about how to secure your smart home, come read our article, How to Secure your Smart Home in 13 Easy Steps 2021

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