It might sound like more trouble than it’s worth, but each of your online accounts requires a unique password made up of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. (Yes, with “password123” for everything.) As tempting as it may be, using one easy-to-remember code for all your accounts can compromise your online security, and you definitely don’t want to make yourself an easy target for cybercriminals.
are important tools that can help you stay safe online and by simplifying the process of using strong passwords. And they’re easier to use than you might think. Yet four out of five American adults do not use it according to a study by Security.org.
Here’s why you need a password manager and how to set it up.
What is a password manager and why do I need one?
A password manager is an online service that stores your passwords, as well as other data such as credit card numbers, bank account information, and identification documents, in a secure, encrypted environment. It takes one of the biggest potential vulnerabilities – weak or reused passwords – and does the hard work for you.
Bad password habits are dangerous for your digital security. Using weak passwords makes your accounts easy to crack, and reusing passwords leaves you openThis can compromise accounts with the same password.
But with a password manager, you only have to remember a single master password, and the password manager will take care of the rest – allowing you to create strong, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. If you are not sure, or if you don’t want to create your own, your password manager can create one for you. Many password managers also include a feature that analyzes your current passwords and lets you know which ones are weak or are being reused and need changing.
You can also securely share passwords and sensitive documents with family and friends when needed. And when you shop online, you can easily enter your credit card information to make purchases without having to have your physical credit card handy.
Your password manager can also help you fight phishing scams. Even if a phishing attempt tricks you into clicking a malicious link, the password manager is not tricked. Your password manager will recognize that the URL is different from the website you normally log into, no matter how similar it may appear to the naked eye.
If you’re worried about storing all kinds of sensitive information in one place, don’t worry. The best password managers use a zero-knowledge approach to securing your passwords and other information you store with them — meaning that not even the password manager itself can access your passwords or other data, since everything is encrypted before it leaves your device. And if your password manager can’t access your data, nobody else can either.
How to set up a password manager
The first thing you need to do is choose a password manager and set up an account (CNET’sis a good starting point). Some password managers have a free tier that usually includes all the basic features you need, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $35 to $60 a year for a premium plan that includes things like access to multiple Devices, extended file storage and family includes sharing.
When setting up your account, you will be asked to create a Master Password. This is the only password you need to remember – make sure you can remember itto make it difficult for others to guess. Also, make sure your Master Password is not one of your existing passwords that you already use on other websites. Some password managers, such as , offer a printable “emergency kit” that contains information such as your username and digital key, and where you can write down your Master Password. Yes, just make sure to keep the piece of paper locked in a safe place.
We really can’t stress this part enough:or your emergency kit, since password managers usually don’t provide a way to recover it for security reasons. Once you’ve locked yourself out, there’s no going back.
Once you have set up your account and Master Password, you can download the software onto your devices. Typically, when you set up your account (iOS, Android, Windows, or macOS), you’ll be prompted to download the app that matches the operating system you’re using. Your password manager’s website also has download links for any other devices you want to use your password manager on. If your password manager offers a browser extension, install it — it will make autofilling your passwords on websites much easier.
After that, you need to add your passwords to the password manager. Most password managers provide easy ways to import your passwords from various places, be it your browser, a spreadsheet, or another password manager. You can also enter your passwords manually.
Once you’ve loaded your passwords into your password manager, you’re good to go. As long as you are signed in to your password manager, it will offer you to enter your credentials when you visit the websites and services you use online. It also offers the ability to store new, secure credentials for newly created accounts – ultimately saving you from compromising your online security.
For more information on how to protect yourself online, visit, and how . And check out how two of the best password managers .