What you should know about password managers

Many online services ask users to regularly change their passwords. Administrators of corporate networks often use this kind of function as well. 

However, when changing your password, you should not use the previously used password that you thought up for security reasons. You will need to use something else besides your personal password system. Often, services, programs, and applications call for passwords of different lengths. A password manager helps to jog your memory.

Password managers offer advantages

  • All passwords or PINs are stored in a central location. 
  • The only password you need to remember is the one for the password manager.
  • Most password managers offer additional convenience functions such as password generators, a cloud function, and automatic review of existing passwords.
  • With a mobile version of the software, you can conveniently have the passwords with you on your smartphone while on the go.  

How to find the right password manager for you

The market is huge, and you have a choice between free and commercially available versions. Among them are apps that only save data locally and those that use the cloud. 

  • When choosing the provider of a password manager, make sure that the provider offers upgrades, regular updates, and support. If you pick an open source solution, only use programs that have been offered for several years and that are still being upgraded. 
  • Search specialist media to find out whether your program of choice has ever had security gaps.
  • On product websites, study how your data is protected and where it is stored. If it is an app that saves the database to the cloud, you should be especially critical and find out what precautions the provider has taken.
  • The app should offer a mechanism that offers access to the database if the master password is not recognized or known. For example, that could be a special certificate or a codeword that you give to relatives so that they can access the data in an emergency. Also think about your digital legacy.
  • Decide which additional and convenience functions are important to you:
    • Secure password generation,
    • Automatic security checks of existing passwords,
    • Auto-completion of online forms and applications,
    • Storage of documents in an encrypted data vault,
    • Mobile apps,
    • Synchronization between different devices even without the cloud, e.g. via Wi-Fi.

A few tips for using a password manager

  • Definitely secure the central database at periodic intervals.
  • Print the passwords whenever you assign, delete, or add new ones. Keep the printout in a safe place to which you or authorized relatives have access. 
  • Go through the password list regularly and delete the passwords that you no longer need.

Further reading