I am constantly struggling with all of the various passwords that I have to remember when I go online. Do you have any suggestions for managing my password nightmare? — Hanna
Passwords… can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!
With very few exceptions, everyone reading this column can relate to your dilemma. Much of what we want to access on the Internet today requires a username and password and more secure passwords tend to be harder to remember.
The good news is that many folks have spent time thinking about how to solve this problem and gone on to create various programs that will do just that (and the good news is that many of them are free.)
I’m sure that you are aware of the ability to have your browser remember passwords, but that is not always the best idea for a couple of reasons.
The obvious reason is that it creates a huge security risk, especially if the computer is accessed by other users. Or, if your computer is ever stolen, one of the first things the thief will do is go look at all of your favorites to see if any of them are ID theft options. If you told your browser to remember your password on an e-mail system or any other online resource that contains private info, you made the job for the ID thief very easy.
The other problem this creates is that you won’t remember what your password is down the road and if anything every clears out all your cookies or you buy a new computer, you won’t be able to get back in without jumping through all of the “I forgot my password” hoops.
To that point, any time you click on the “I forgot my password” link, the site usually sends an e-mail with a link to change the password to your primary account. Computer thieves know this, so if you told your e-mail program to remember your password, they will start systematically going to every Web site that they can find in your favorites and from old e-mail messages so they can lock you out of your own stuff and start living life as you!
For sites that don’t have any real risk from someone else gaining access, you can use the browser’s “remember my password” option, but for anything that provides access to personal info, don’t do it.
One of the more popular programs that started life as a utility to help you fill out online forms is RoboForm, which has a free version (limited to 10 passwords) or a Pro version that has unlimited passcards for $30.
Not only can it manage all of your passwords for all of your online logins, it can fill out various registration pages with a single click, generate strong passwords that you won’t have to remember, prevents phishing scams, thwarts keyloggers (because you are no longer typing in your password), and can be taken as a portable program on a flash drive (handy for travelers that don’t want to lug their laptops around).
RoboForm does require you to enter a password to start using it every time you launch your browser or if you have not used your Web browser for a preset length of time, so it reduces your load of remembering passwords to one.
Another option is a free program called Any Password that is strictly a password manager without a limitation of how many it can store.
A variation on this theme is a new Web resource at PageOnce.com, which takes a completely different approach. Once you create your own account, you start building a display of all your various online financial, social networking and e-mail resources and consolidates them into a single page.
Finally, if you want to manage more than just online passwords (like PINs or other offline pass codes) and you have a smart phone, check out Splash Data’s Splash ID.
Splash ID is available for the iPhone, Palm OS, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Symbian, or any desktop computer and is very handy for those that travel and have to use public Internet terminals.