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Password Management Solutions: Are They Really Worth It?

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By: rotsap

December 15, 2015

Password Management Solutions: Are They Really Worth It? - CybraryAs I clicked reply to a comment recently, relating to the worth or value of using a Password Manager, I saw my own "product" shall we say, go right to work, logging me in to do so...And, it was a good feeling using it...Excellent.So, I'll provide a view on the topic, based on the only password manager I've had a lot of experience with.I subscribe to a few different geeky-style newsletters, not pushing any one of them in particular, not my point here. I had received a review of what I will refer to as: "this product's", Password Manager from one such trusted source. My take away from the review was this:
  1. I understood it was a safe product.
  2. It was free
  3. It could help with a problem that was growing within the context of my own IT landscape.
So I gave "this product" a whirl. Here's what I found. In the free version, I was able to login and setup very easily. I now had capacity to save and replay my logins, I could auto fill annoying forms and I could view all my passwords for everything under one tab.I also soon learned that I'd have the choice to set my own password or generate an unbelievably secure password if I needed to.  This allowed me the typical management I'd always enjoyed prior to using an automated manager or to generate secure passwords as needed.Another wonderful feature I discovered was that I also could set payment info into profiles and store digital receipts. This was good enough to compel me to purchase the paid version and now I sync all my data across all my devices.  Wherever I go to login now, whether it's to applications or accounts, I have the password manager right there to help.I'm a proud IT professional and a conscientious pundit for security. But no matter how much pride I have, or how good my password strategies are, in the professional field of IT and program deployment your mind is totally subject to fallibility. To rely on notes or other methods seems, oh, I don't know, ... shall we just say, "a little antiquated maybe"?  It's not a matter of "what if this approach will fail?", it's a matter of "when, and how often will this approach fail." Going to a management system is good for security, and that is never a bad idea.I'll say this, once you've enjoyed the ease and effectiveness of using a tool like a password manager, there will be no going back.  And, although it takes a few days to get used to doing things this way, I believe it's a huge payoff. At least, for myself it was indeed a huge payoff, and so very worthwhile. HOW DOES IT WORK?Typically, the tool would install a browser plug-in to process the capture and replay of passwords. The login information is stored securely. When you return to the site, it's replayed for access, offering to fill in those fields with your stored credentials. At this point, you still have some manageability whether to use previously stored versions of your passwords, or to create new ones, attach email accounts to passwords, etc. It's great!If you have weak or duplicated credentials, a good Password Manager offers to create new, better, different, and secure passwords for you.In top-rated product, you find most, if not all the features I mention in today's article. But, pretty much all managers available on the market these days have their own merits.  You'll  need to explore your options. Try out one or two to see what they have to offer and what their paid versions do compared to the free versions. HOW DO I MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION?The use of password management tools has become so prevalent that these days a simple search of the terms "Password", and  "Manager" will yield all the insights you would ever need to make your choice. You simply need to explore your options and test drive one or two to discover your preferences.In addition to the obvious reasons and the conveniences of using  a password manager, which immediately present themselves right out of the gate, remember to consider the following questions:
  • Does my password management solution offer me the options of a digital legacy? So that data can be transferred to a trusted individual in the event something unforeseen ever happened to me.
  • Can I share my passwords?  ...     ...  Securely? A good password manager will include some type of mechanism that would allow you to share a password with other users. Some will allow you to choose to view the password, either temporarily or otherwise. There are one or two that will even allow you to wipe or revoke the sharing previously shared passwords.
  • Can my password manager handle application passwords? Some managers have the ability to provide management of passwords for more than simply website applications. Some manage your credentials for accessing logins to applications that live on the devices themselves. Very handy.
  • Does my password manager provide a secure browser? Some of the top managers offer a secure browser, which is invoked whenever you hit a secure website (for instance, a bank website or other financial institutions).  These secure browser versions guard your sensitive transaction activities.
 REMEMBEROnce you have all your passwords in the manager, you can usually use built-in feature to analyze the content. Almost all password managers have features like this. If yours does not have this feature activated in the free version, surely, don't purchase a paid version.  Managers typically flag weak and duplicated passwords, and you should be able to repair this issue with the click of a button.The features of a good password manager can be numerous and varied. Some are more established and offer better pedigrees, some are more polished and can provide more comprehensive offerings. FINAL THOUGHTSAll things considered, only you can decide if using a password manager is worth the expense. But, if you're just getting your feet wet and trying this tool for the first time, free is always worth the investment. And, as always, building your IT portfolio is a value-added factor. So, even if you never go full speed ahead with the comparatively minuscule investment into a premium manager product, it never hurts to augment your personal knowledge and skills by learning more about the use of password management tools. Paul George - IT Specialist
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