How to Choose a Password Manager

Password security is more important than ever before.

Bleeding Heart flowers

Bleeding Heart flowers

Everybody sure is paying attention at a higher level – we’ve learned we are vulnerable with the “heartbleed” bug (go here for an indepth explanation of heartbleed,) but actually, heartbleed simply brought visibility to the problem – your online accounts are vulnerable because your passwords are weak, and your passwords are weak so you can remember them.  (This link will take you to my article about creating a strong password.)

Heartbleed with Binary Code and Password TextPassword managers can help.  A password manager is a software program that stores your online account usernames and passwords securely (think: encrypted), and can create difficult and secure passwords you don’t have to remember on your own.  There are some good free ones, but usually a small fee buys you premium features that make it easier to use and integrate into your life (and all your mobile devices).  Sounds great, sign me up!  Except … isn’t this just one more account I have to manage?  Well yes it is.  But it’ll be less work than recovering from being hacked, and once you’re through the set-up, your online accounts will be organized in a way you’ve always wished for.  Think of having them all documented in one place!

There are two main differences between password managers:

  • an online account that stores your precious information in the cloud, and synchronizes between all your devices (LastPass, mSecure);
  • an account that lives only on your computer, and communicates wirelessly with your mobile devices to keep your passwords updated and available, SplashID (offers both options now).

There are many good password managers out there – I mention these three because I am already familiar with them.

For security, some people will not store their passwords in the cloud, and the second option is a reasonable alternative.  Note: do you let your Internet browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome) store your passwords?  This makes them more vulnerable, and think about it – this is a way of storing them in the cloud.  A fairly insecure way.  So let’s stop that.

Additional tip: fellow Women In Consulting member Clyde Lerner is also a great resource for password help.  Here’s a link to his blog on passwords and password managers.padlock folder2

Getting Started

  1. Start from your primary computer.  This may sound obvious, but this will be less frustrating if you get the basics set before you jump to your smart phone and tablet.  The password manager will create a starting point from which you will now access the Internet.(Are you comfortable with the password manager storing all your account information online?  It is indeed encrypted, but if this password got hacked, that would be bad.  Need I mention that the password for the password manager must be truly excellent?  See the post from earlier this week for tips.)
  2. Don’t just sign up and jump in.  Watch the instructional videos.  It’ll only take a minute and they really do help.  Follow their instructions.  Accept that it will take a little time you’d rather not give to this.  None of us really want to pay attention to passwords, but this upgrade in security will save you stress and frustration down the road.
  3. Write down your password manager password in a safe place.  Please don’t store it in your wallet.  Or in a “note” on your phone.  But you must document it, because no one can help you get it back if you lose it.
  4. Get used to the program with a few online accounts that are not mission critical (Pandora radio, your library, etc).  The program will store your user ID, the password (terrible though it might still be), and the website link.  Don’t worry about improving the passwords yet.
  5. Set the program up on your mobile devices.  There will be an app for it.  Play with it a little.  All good?
  6. When you’re comfortable using the program on all your devices, start adding more important accounts (LinkedIn, Dropbox, etc.), and even e-mail – as long as it isn’t the e-mail account you use to sign up for all these accounts – that password you should memorize.
  7. Let the program help you replace your weak passwords.  Just do one at a time, and make sure the new password is available to all devices before you go on to the next.  This is the true purpose of the program – tough, long, gobbledegook-looking passwords that no one could remember and that are not vulnerable to password crackers.  Know that the programs aren’t perfect, but they are a huge improvement over your “fido123” and “Cr@ZyT0wn!” passwords.

Now you can get back to your life, knowing your online identity is measurably safer.

Do you have experience with a password manager?  What do you like about it?  What don’t you like?' About Jeannie Shea

I'm a computer technician and trainer, and I specialize in helping small business owners and consultants manage their technology, whether in person, by telephone or through remote computer access. We offer quick-access solutions and quarterly service contracts to our regular clients. Our goal: less tech frustration and more happy clients!


  1. Very helpful post i have this problem but now solved thanks.

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