Everyone you know tells you to use long complex passwords and not replicate them from one place to another. And those same people tell you that you can keep track of all that by using a password manager. But what if you never used one before? How does it work? Is it safe?
Here are five things to know about password managers:
1. They can pick your passwords for you.
All password managers store passwords, and you should make sure to pick one that stores them securely. But they can also generate long complex passwords for you that are generally considered hard to break.
2. It's easy to retrieve the passwords.
You only need to memorize one secure password for the service. After that, you can cut and paste them, or if you feel comfortable with it, use a browser extension to have the password put in the login field for you. You can also view them if you want.
3. Most password managers function as browser plugins, desktop software, and mobile apps.
You don't have to use all the service offers you but you can pick which ones work well for you.
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4. You can use password managers safely on other computers.
The phone app is handy for logging in on a computer that doesn't have your password manager installed. A web version of the service might work for this too, just be absolutely certain you sign out of all your accounts when you're done, especially your password manager account, and don't let the browser on the borrowed computer remember your passwords!
5. You can use password managers at work.
Some companies may recommend a password manager, but you can always use the phone or the web version on your work device, and it might be a good idea to do so. Check with your system administrator to be sure, and always remove all your passwords and managers from company devices if you leave the job.
Password managers aren't perfect. Nothing is. But for those tempted to repeat passwords or use short dictionary words, they're a huge step forward in security.
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