Tech Tips: Password managers protect more than passwords

When consumer passwords are stolen by cybercriminals, the theft isn’t a one-time event. Those passwords continue to circulate in online forums, used and reused by criminals in repeated attempts to break into your accounts. But a good password manager can keep your passwords, security questions and other private data out of the hands of thieves.

Today’s cybercrime uses automated software tools that can analyze millions of passwords in moments. If your password isn’t complex enough, those software tools will flag it as an easy steal. You want to make your passwords as difficult as possible, but that makes it harder for you to remember them too! And that’s where a password manager comes in.

Password managers can generate and store long, complex passwords with a random mix of letters, numbers and symbols. With one click, you can log onto any site without having to remember the password at all. The password manager does the work for you.

They also help you avoid the common tendency to reuse passwords. Reusing the same password for multiple accounts may be easier to remember, but it also makes it easier for criminals to break into everything. It’s like using the same key for your house, your car, your office and your safe deposit box. Password managers make it simple to use a different password for each account, since all you have to do to log in is click a button.

There are several password managers on the market, but the two I’ve been recommending lately are KeePass and 1Password. Once you download and set up the software, you’ll be able to start storing your account information. You’ll find more detailed information about setting up a password manager on my blog.

There is one important thing to know about password managers. It’s critical to keep a backup copy of your master password and any other recovery or emergency codes that the password manager provides. Without them, you could be locked out if you ever lose access to your password manager account. Be sure to store multiple copies of them in safe places. And it goes without saying that your master password should be as strong as possible.

Once installed, you can use the program’s web extension to add your usernames and passwords to the password manager. Or, you can choose to enter information manually. You also can manage two-factor authentication and use encrypted storage for the answers to security questions.

Even better, a password manager protects you from malicious websites. Your password manager won’t autofill your password if it thinks you’ve been misdirected to one of those phony lookalike sites that steal your password. It can sync across multiple devices, so you can use the same password manager on your computer, tablet and phone. Plus, you can use family sharing to share passwords safely.

Just remember that password managers aren’t foolproof. You’ll still want to follow the standard online safety recommendations, like avoiding unknown links and sketchy apps. But your password manager will make account management much simpler and safer.

• Triona Guidry is a freelance writer and consumer technology specialist offering tech support and advice for home computer users. For free weekly tips and news by email, subscribe to her Simple Tech Tips blog at www.lightningtechsupport.com.