Password managers: Essential tools — but consider the downsides

Are you tired of changing and managing passwords for different sites, apps, or services? Then this article is for you. Cybercriminals have made it treacherous to use one password across multiple platforms. If you try that, you’re compromising your privacy, sensitive information, and safety. That’s why most people have 70 passwords or more, especially if they are active Internet users. But there’s usually a struggle to create strong passwords that online thieves can’t break. It is never easy to remember these passwords, especially when you’re not using them regularly. That’s why you need a password manager to handle these herculean tasks for you. With this app, you can use many strong passwords easily without stress. Password managers will only ask you to remember one powerful password (the master password) instead of hundreds.

Still, while many people are aware of password managers, many don’t fully know what they do and how they work. So, if you’re interested in cutting your online stress, keep reading. We will tell you what a password manager is and why it is useful for everyone — as long as you are also aware of their shortcomings.

Password managers

What are password managers?

A password manager is software that stores all your passwords in one encrypted vault for stealthy protection and ease of use. It also enhances your online security by generating strong passwords that hackers cannot re-create no matter how hard they try.

We can even say that a password manager is a digital safe for all your online credentials and an assistant that automatically fills your passwords into the platforms you visit.

When using this app, the only work you’ll do is to remember the “master password” or “sign-up pin” to activate its functions. Once you set the master password, you can visit all your platforms and log in for the app to collect the details and save them. If you visit that same site another time, the PM will fill in the login details automatically if you want.

Types of password managers

Password managers differ in terms of storage, features, encryption techniques, and other aspects. Some of the main types include:

1. Desktop-based

These are the password managers that exist on your desktop. They encrypt and store your login details manually on the desktop. One good thing about these PMs is that your desktop is yours, and no one else accesses it. But the downside is that you can’t access your stored passwords from other devices. Also, if you share the desktop with other people, your privacy gets at stake.

2. Cloud-based

These are the types of password managers that store your details on their company’s servers. When you need to use the data, the servers transmit it through your web browser on the internet using a secure channel. One good thing about this type of PMs is that you can access your password no matter where you are or the device you’re using. The downside is that the service provider has access to your passwords and usernames.

3. Browser-based

This type of passwords managers is built into web browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer. The PM stores and manages your login credentials on the web browsers you use to access the internet. One good thing about them is that you don’t need to spend money to use them, and using them is easy for everyone. However, the downside is that they don’t come with a sync option and no advanced features. Also, it offers less security compared to others.

4. Token-based

This type of password manager offers an extra layer of security. Users usually have login credentials plus a security token that they’ll receive on their device. The main high point for these PMs is that you can be sure that your credentials will be safe. But they’re costly and complex to use. So, if you’re not a tech-savvy individual, this may not be ideal for you.

5. Stateless password managers

These types of password managers generate passwords randomly with your master passphrase and a tag. They offer enhanced security since it has no database for your credentials. Also, they combine different things to generate your password, thereby making it hard for a hacker to recreate. But it doesn’t have the sync option and can be compromised with a brute-force attack.

Pros and cons of using password managers

There are lots of advantages to using a password manager. Also, there’re some downsides worth mentioning too.

Pros

Password managers
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1. To create complex passwords

It’s often hard to coin a long and complex password on your own. Sometimes, when you follow a platform’s suggestions, you may end up forming a long combination of confusing characters. But with a password manager, you don’t need to bother. It’ll create a complex password that cybercriminals can never know. Also, some of the apps often change your passwords to thwart the attempts of hackers.

2. To protect your data

Most password managers hide your data from online criminals. These types come with security measures that protect your data on your devices. For instance, if someone steals your phone and you’re using a fingerprint scanner, it will be impossible to access your data on that phone. Moreover, as a PM changes your passwords frequently, it’ll be difficult for anyone to compromise your data since they can’t log into your accounts.

3. To save time

As mentioned earlier, password managers are like assistants that simplify your life. Every assistant’s work is to increase your productivity by reducing the time you waste on unnecessary things. That’s what a password manager does for you. It collects, saves, and fills your login details automatically across multiple platforms.

Instead of wasting time remembering or even changing your passwords when you forget, a password manager will do all that for you.

4. Ability to sync your passwords

If you’re someone who uses many devices, you can sync your passwords across them, especially with the cloud-based password manager. Some brands offering cloud-based PM services have apps for smartphones, while some even provide browser plug-ins and desktop options.

Instead of manually adding your credentials on each device you want to use, a password manager can save you time and trouble.

Cons

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  1. Some of the password managers are vulnerable to phishing attacks.
  2. Most PMs may allow for multiple trials to input the master password, raising the odds someone could crack it.
  3. Hackers can steal all your credentials through a cloud-based password manager. Remember, if someone gets access to your master password, they have access to all of your passwords.
  4. You may lose all your passwords through a desktop-based PM.

How to choose the best password managers

If you want to choose the password manager today, consider the following things:

1. Check if the tool features a random password generator

This is one way to confuse hackers. If your password manager regularly changes your passwords, it will be difficult for cybercriminals to steal your data.

2. Check for two-factor authentication

It’s all about security for your data. So, an extra layer is important. A brand that features a two-factor authentication in its password manager is worth using.

3. Gauge the storage method

Some services store your data in the cloud, while others store it in your devices. So, it all depends on your choice. Bear this in mind — both storage methods can lead to a loss of details. But when it comes to local storage on your devices, it’s harder for hackers to steal your passwords unless there’s a physical attack against you.

Password managers with these features can go a long way to protect your details from cybercriminals.

Final words on password managers

A password manager is necessary if you’re using many apps, services, and platforms online. The software simplifies your digital life, makes you more productive, and keeps your data safe from cybercriminals.

But since there’re many types in the market, you can choose the best one for you, depending on your requirements. We’ve shared the essential factors to consider when choosing a password manager — now, it should be easy to pick one.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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