Password Managers You Need

Online security can be stress-free with a password manager in your corner

1Password 6 for Windows
1Password lets you organize your login items into custom categories. Image courtesy of AgileBits, Inc.

A password manager is an application that can generate, store securely, retrieve, and manage passwords and other login credentials. And it may well end up being the best friend you have when it comes to keeping your privacy safe while browsing the web and accessing your favorite online services.

Password managers let you collect and store all of your passwords and login information for various accounts in one easy-to-access app that can log you in to any service you have subscribed to with just a couple of clicks or taps.

The ease of access to your passwords usually puts an end to two of the most common security problems involving online services: using the same password for multiple sites, and using easy to remember, and thus easy to guess, login credentials.

It's important to use different passwords for each and every site/service you use because if one of the sites or services you use is hacked and the hackers gain access to your name and password, they will start trying your name and password combination on lots of sites (think banks and social media sites). By having completely different passwords for each site/service leaves you far less vulnerable.

Easy Recall of Complex Passwords

With a password manager, secure logins involving long and complex passwords are no more difficult to use than the simple one you've been using for years. Many of us use passwords that are easy to remember, usually involving some bit of personal information, such as a pet's name and maybe our first car.

SammyFord may be easy to remember, but it's also easy for someone else to guess or for a password-guessing app to figure out.

A better password is one that uses a long sequence of letters, numbers, and characters that may or may not contain any dictionary-based words. An example that I just had one of the password managers in our list generate for us is: tLV(C6NhPTJm2ZF$JPAPr.

While that 21-character password that contains no dictionary words is very strong and unlikely to be broken, it's also very difficult to remember. Now, imagine you have 25 passwords to remember and it becomes clear why weak passwords like SammyFord are more likely to be used.

An End to Website Spoofing

Password managers can also help put an end to nefarious sites being able to successfully spoof a legitimate site and abscond with your password when you try to login. The way a password manager puts an end to this is by carefully comparing the site's login URL with the one it has stored for the original site. When they don't match, the password manager doesn't offer up your login credentials.

Basic Features of a Password Manager

The feature set of password managers in our list vary quite a bit. But even with the wide range of features and services available, a password manager should have at least the following core features:

  • Secure storage: All data stored within a password manager needs to be securely stored using encryption techniques. Ideally, the encryption method used should be well known, ensuring that it meets the highest standards.
  • Master password: During the initial setup you create a master password, a single strong password to rule them all. Remembering a single strong password that unlocks access to all your passwords is a good tradeoff; one password is a heck of a lot easier to remember than dozens.
  • Secure and easy-to-use interface: It goes without saying that the password manager's user interface should be easy to understand and simple to use. Less well known is that the interface itself needs to be secure. A good password manager will make use of secure resources to protect against decrypted login credentials from being swapped or paged out to disk space during the course of routine use.
  • Searchable: It may seem obvious, but a good password manager needs a strong search capability so you can find the credentials you're securely storing. The ability to not only search based on service names and form data, but also on tags and categories, will help make the password manager a better app.

    Additional Password Manager Features

    • Import/Export: The ability to import passwords from either a competitor's product (and earlier versions of the same product), or from a defined file type, can help you get the password manager set up with your information. Export options should allow for saving the data in encrypted formats as well as decrypted.
    • Browser integration: Allows the password manager to automatically capture login credentials when registering for a web-based service. It also allows for automatic filling of a login request when the password manager contains the required information.
    • Form fill: Besides being able to fill in login forms, some password managers can also respond to repeatedly seen web forms and fill them in for you.
    • Multiple identities: The password manager can handle it when there are multiple registered users for the same service and allow you to pick which identity to use.
    • Password generator: Able to create custom passwords based on parameters you specify, such as character length, type of characters to use, or word restrictions. Many password generators also predict the generated password's strength. The stronger a password, the less likely it is to be guessed or unraveled.
    • Two-factor authentication: The use of multiple factors to authenticate your master login. This can be in the form of the master password plus a secret token or PIN provided through a second device. The second factor could also be through biometrics.
    • Biometric authentication: Use of fingerprint or other biometric methods to establish identity. Can be combined with a two-factor authentication system as one of the factors.

      Password Managers Picks (listed alphabetically)

      1Password

      1Password from AgileBits offers many of the features needed, including operating across multiple devices and multiple operating systems. 1Password is a long-time leader in password management for Macs and iOS devices, and has introduced new features for all versions to make the app a strong contender no matter which OS you use.

      Best features include Watchtower, which monitors website and services you make use of for security issues; and Travel mode, which removes sensitive personal data from your device when traveling, and then restores the information when needed. All versions are available on the 1Password download page. 1 Password works with:

      • Windows
      • Mac
      • iOS
      • Android

      aWallet

      aWallet is a password manager designed for mobile devices. It's available in free, Pro, and Cloud versions. The free version can store passwords, credit cards, and other types of information in a secure storage system. There's a built-in search for retrieving your login data, and an auto-lock to secure the information when the app hasn't been used within a preset time frame.

      The pro version adds a password generator, CSV import, and the ability to be unlocked with your fingerprint using a compatible Android 6 or later device.

      The cloud version includes all of the Pro version features plus the ability to sync the encrypted data using the cloud (Dropbox and Google Drive currently supported).

      aWallet is available from Amazon Appstore, Google Play and the App Store.

      ​The aWallet download page includes links to the following versions:

      • iOS​
      • Android​
      • Kindle​

      Chrome Password Manager

      If you use the Chrome browser, you've probably noticed that it has its own built-in password manager, offering to save your login information for later use. The saved login credentials are actually stored in the cloud, using your Google account and Google's password manager.

      While the Chrome browser is needed to save passwords, you can access the saved password using just about any other browser by logging in to your Google account and then visiting the Google Password Manager site.

      The Chrome browser can be downloaded for the following operating systems:

      • Android
      • Linux​
      • iOS​
      • Mac
      • Windows

      Dashlane

      Dashlane has long been one of the most used password managers available. Dashlane is well known for having an easy-to-use and well-designed interface. It has the usual features most people are looking for in a password manager, including autofill, a password generator, the ability to measure the strength of a password, easy searches, and bulk password changing.

      It also has a few unusual features that make it appealing, including Emergency Contact, which allows a person you specify to inherit access to your password database in the event you're incapacitated. Emergency Contact includes sufficient safeguards to prevent a specified contact from trying to access your data while you're still up and about.

      Dashlane can be downloaded for the following versions:

      • Android​
      • iOS
      • Mac
      • Windows​

      KeePass

      KeePass takes a slightly different approach, offering very basic password manager features in the core product, and then allowing more than 100 plug-ins, many from third parties, to beef up the feature list.

      On its own, KeePass includes a powerful password generator, two-factor authentication, and the ability to import passwords from many of its competitors. But automatic password capture, or an easy way to sync information across multiple devices, requires one or more plug-ins.

      KeePass is available for a number of operating systems including:

      • Android
      • Linux
      • iOS
      • Mac
      • Windows

      LastPass

      Supports syncing passwords with all your devices; includes two-factor authentication and the ability to detect duplicate and weak passwords. LastPass also checks on the security of well-known sites, letting you know if any have experienced a security compromise.

      LastPass has recently added an Emergency Access feature similar to the one included with Dashlane, ensuring someone you trust will be able to access your login credentials should the need arise.

      LastPass is available from the developer's website in configurations for:

      • Android
      • Linux​
      • iOS​
      • Mac
      • Windows​
      • Windows Phone

      Sticky Password

      Syncs your information across all your devices using the cloud or your local network for added security. Mobile versions support fingerprint authentication. The password generator can produce passwords from 4 to 99 characters in length, and can test existing passwords for strength.

      Sticky Password also offers an online Sticky account where your information can be securely stored in an encrypted state. It also allows you to access your information from any browser, provided the client computing device has been authenticated. 

      Sticky Password download page includes versions to support:​

      • Android​
      • BlackBerry
      • iOS​
      • Kindle
      • Mac​
      • Nokia
      • Windows
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