In this digital age, we have passwords for absolutely everything. Our email, bank, and social media accounts as well as most online stores and services, all require passwords. In fact, nowadays users can have up to 85 passwords across all their accounts! It can be overwhelming to keep track of all these passwords, especially since many websites have different password policies that need to be considered. Aside from this, passwords that we do remember are at serious risk of being compromised through brute-force cyberattacks if they are not long and complex enough.
If you want to secure all your passwords in one place, then you should consider getting a password manager. These tools can store your passwords in an encrypted vault to protect them from hackers. Password managers also have other benefits that can save you time and unnecessary hassle, but we’ll dive into that later. For now, if you’re still undecided, then keep reading to find out the main pros and cons of password managers so you can then determine whether these tools are worth giving a try.
What is a password manager?
A password manager is a digital tool that manages and stores multiple passwords for you in an encrypted vault. This vault is secured by a single master password, which is the only password you need to commit to memory. By entering the master password, you’ll unlock your vault and gain access to every single password stored there.
So why would anyone use a password manager? Well, nowadays we’re all likely to have a heap of different passwords we need to remember and use every single day. Even worse, many websites, apps, and services require long and complex passwords, with special characters, capital letters, and numbers.
Remembering and entering all these passwords can be frustrating and time-consuming, which can lead to people resorting to risky ‘solutions’. Writing all your passwords on a piece of paper, for example, may seem like a good idea to help you keep them all in one place. However, if you end up misplacing the piece of paper, or worse, someone else finds it, then you may find yourself in trouble. Another common ‘solution’ that many people resort to is using the exact same password for every single account. The obvious danger here is that if one account password is compromised, then it will impact all of your accounts and the outcome could be disastrous.
This is why password managers are so beneficial. All your passwords are safely locked away and you don’t have to remember any of them except for the master password. But that’s not all. Password managers also have some other useful functions, such as automatically generating complex passwords for you. Password vaults can be stored either locally, where the user has control over its security but risks composing all passwords if the device is lost/stolen, or on the cloud, where the vault is stored on the provider’s servers and can be synced and accessed across various devices.
The pros of password managers
If you’re still unsure whether password managers are worth all the hype, then check out this helpful list of pros and cons –
You only need to remember one password
Over 75% of users report that they get frustrated trying to keep track of their passwords. With a password manager, all you need to remember is the master password, the one you use to access your vault. So, trying to remember and keep track of all your different passwords is no longer a problem.
Complex passwords can be auto-generated
Creating new, unique passwords can be tricky too. Hackers are becoming increasingly more advanced and can access user accounts through brute-force attacks, a form of hacking whereby a hacker will repeatedly input different combinations until they find the correct password.
You might think you’ve created a hard-to-guess password, it could take a hacker no time at all to crack. Even pressing random keys on your keyboard will create some sort of pattern due to the layout of your keyboard. A password manager can automatically generate random passwords that are long, random, and adhere to a particular website’s password policy.
All password data is encrypted
One of the best things about password managers is that they encrypt your password data in addition to storing it. This means that even if your provider experiences a major data breach, they won’t be able to decipher encrypted passwords and therefore your data remains safe.
You can access your passwords from anywhere
Another great thing about password managers is that they can be accessed anywhere and from any device using the master password. Passwords can also be added or changed and will be instantly updated across all synced devices.
You can use auto-login
A password manager can speed up the login process for all your accounts by automatically entering the password from your vault, based on the URL of each website. You can quickly log in to any account that’s set up in your password manager’s vault without even having to remember each individual password.
Using auto-login can also help you avoid becoming a victim of a common cyberattack known as keylogging. Keylogging is when malicious software sneaks onto a victim’s device to track and log every keystroke that the user makes. Hackers are essentially able to eavesdrop and intercept everything that you type, including your passwords. Luckily, with a password manager, you can avoid the risk of keylogging completely as you’ll no longer need to manually input your passwords.
The cons of password managers
Despite their uses, password managers still have a selection of drawbacks that need to be considered –
You might forget your master password
Forgetting your master password could be disastrous as it likely means all your passwords are locked away forever. Even worse, if you’ve made use of your password manager’s password generation feature, then you might not even know what your account’s passwords actually are. If this is the case, then unfortunately you’ll have to reset every single password for all your accounts. So, don’t forget your password!
Some password managers do have reset features implemented that can help you recover your account, but be sure to check with your provider beforehand. It also pays to leave a hint in a secure, physical location that can help you remember your master password.
You could lose your backups
Although it’s rare, there is a chance that your provider’s server breaks down. If this happens and you don’t have any backups, then sadly all your passwords could be gone. It’s wise to manually back up your password manager data by exporting it to a CSV format and saving it on a hard drive. We recommend that you do this at least once a year to ensure that you don’t lose any data in the case of a server breakdown.
In this day and age, cybercriminals are continuing to advance and adopt sophisticated strategies to attack users and businesses. But, with a password manager, you can stay at least one step ahead.
Password managers are useful, time-saving tools that can be beneficial for all types of users. Not only can you safely store your passwords in an encrypted vault, but you can have strong passwords generated for you, and even save time when logging into accounts using the auto-fill features. Remembering just one master password is undoubtedly much easier than having to remember dozens of different ones, and you can help protect yourself against cyber attacks by not reusing the same password for multiple accounts.
As with everything, password managers come with a couple of downsides. Firstly, if you forget your master password, then you’ll find yourself in a predicament. Additionally, there is always a chance that your provider experiences a server breakdown or credential leak. Although this can cause you to lose your passwords (if they’re not backed up), having your password vault encrypted means that even if hackers gained access to it, your passwords would be incomprehensible text, which is also known as ciphertext.
Overall, it’s safe to say that password managers’ pros do outweigh the cons. This is a much more viable solution than writing your passwords on a sticky note, which is what a staggering 42% of IT professionals reported that their organization does to manage passwords.
With all of us having so many different passwords to juggle and remember, having them all stored in a single location is undeniably convenient. As with all tools, it’s best to use password managers with some degree of caution. But overall we would say password managers are a low-cost way to increase your online security and protect you from cyberattacks such as brute-force attacks, phishing, and keylogging.
Now you can check out our list of the best password managers in 2022!