Best password managers
Being hacked can have disastrous results. A password manager is a great way to stay safe. Martyn Casserly reports
Passwords are a pain. With so much of our modern lives based online, it’s now a necessary evil to create passwords for our email, media streaming, gaming, financial, and other services.
But because conventions differ from site to site (this one demands at least two symbols and no capitals, while this one requires a mixture of cases and a minimum length), it’s important to
use original passwords for each account, and they need to be updated on a regular basis, it can be a Herculean task trying to remember them all.
That’s where password manager apps come in. These allow users to create one master password, after which the app takes care of logging into all other accounts. Only having to remember one combination of letters, numbers, and weird symbols? That sounds good to us.
How password managers work
The idea of password managers is to simplify the way you access your various accounts. This is done by the manager generating a master password, which you then use to access its dashboard area where all of your login details are stored. Here you can enter far more complex passwords for each service, knowing that the manager will automatically fill in the details via plug-ins in your browser or through apps on your smartphone and tablet apps.
The managers can also create random passwords for your accounts. These will often be harder to hack than your own efforts, as they are not designed to be easily remembered by humans.
Obviously, security is a high priority – as the manager apps have the virtual keys to your kingdom – which is why all of the ones listed below use high-grade encryption to protect your details.
Many also feature digital wallets, so your bank details can be safely stored and then used to make purchases online without having to
root around in your pocket or bag for the card
number and expiry date.
These services don’t usually come for free, but
many offer trials so you can see if it’s the solution
for you. After that you’ll need to pay a small monthly
fee, but we think that’s a price worth paying for
only having to keep one password in your brain.
Price: Free (one device), £38.99 per year (multiple devices) from fave.co/2CQuPOZ
Here’s a password manager that’s been growing in popularity over the past year or so. A potential reason for this is the free tier on offer, which gets you up and running in a matter of minutes. Once installed Dashlane can pull any stored account details you might have in your browsers, making them available in the dashboard area where they can be viewed and managed.
The app analyses your current passwords to see how secure they are, and gives you an overall rating based on how often you reuse login details on multiple sites. There’s also a feature to autoreplace passwords instantly with ones generated by Dashlane. Plug-ins and extensions are available for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox, all of which will auto-fill forms and login details when you visit a website.
Credit card and PayPal details can be stored in the digital wallet section of the app, alongside digital versions of your passport and other IDs. There’s also a section for any secure notes you
wish to keep safe. The clean, clear interface for Dashlane means it’s easy to setup and use. The fact that it also features AES 256-bit encryption, and has apps for macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android, makes it a very good option if you’re new to password managers.
The free tier allows the service to be used on one device, but if you want to sync your passwords to your phone and tablet too then the Premium tier will set you back £38.99 per year.
Price: £22.99 per year from fave.co/2F5v5Qr
LastPass is probably the best-known password manager, thanks to it being one of the original
pioneers in the field. The company places a strong emphasis on security, trumpeting the use of “AES 256-bit encryption with PBKDF2 SHA-256 and salted hashes to ensure complete security in the cloud”.
The app does all of its encryption locally, so LastPass never knows your master password, and the Premium tier also supports two-factor authentication for another layer of security.
There are plug-ins and extensions available for Safari, Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, all of which allow you to automatically access login details for sites and accounts. Mobile apps for iOS and Android can also be found in the relevant app store.
LastPass seem to have given its interface a lick of paint recently, as it’s simple and straightforward to use, which is something that wasn’t always the case. Just like with other managers you have access to a vault where all of your passwords are stored, and these can be changed to more complex
alternatives at the touch of a button. LastPass will also advise you on how secure your passwords are for your existing accounts.
The app offers a digital wallet to store your card details, plus another area for official ID such as passports and driving licenses.
Alongside the free version you can sign up to a Premium plan for £22.99 per year. Those wanting more scope can opt for the family plan which includes six user accounts and only costs $48 per year on the LastPass website, which is about £35.
One of the advantages of a paid plan is an Emergency backup which means that should you suffer an accident, or even pass away, then your family will be given access to your account.
It should be mentioned that, due to its size and popularity, LastPass has been the target for hackers over the last few years, leading to a few vulnerabilities being found in the code. But LastPass has responded very quickly to fix each instance and made public statements about the nature of the problems. To date, it seems that no user information has ever been obtained, thanks in a large part to the encryption and security protocols used by the company.
Price: £3.99 per month or £34.99 per year from fave.co/2CUt6bu
Another long-standing favourite is 1Password. Much like the other offerings on this list the app
comes with the standard vault that you access via a master password, and in which you can see and update your various account login details.
A free 30-day trial is available, but after that you’ll need to move onto a paid subscription that currently costs £3.99 per month or £34.99 per year. For this you’ll be able to use the software on as many devices as you like, including the accompanying iPhone and Android apps, the former of which also supports Touch ID to log in.
Security is again front and centre, with 1Password boasting end-to-end encryption so only you will hold the key to your account. AES 256-bit is the order of the day, and 1Password monitors the activity on your account so it can send you warnings if any odd behaviour is spotted.
One interesting new feature is Travel mode. This allows you to completely remove certain
information from your device when going abroad.
In these strange times, this could prove very useful if you’re passing through some of the rather aggressive customs checkpoints that now demand access to your devices. The best part is when you get home again everything can be restored by flicking a switch in the settings.
1Password has won numerous awards, and is always an easy service to recommend. Based in Canada too, so you know they’re nice.
Price: £22.99 per year from fave.co/2F7XVzG
Keeper claims to be “the world’s #1 most downloaded password manager & secure digital vault”, providing its services to millions of customers around the world.
This doesn’t come as a surprise when you see the feature list and general polish that the app contains. You can store unlimited passwords, have Keeper auto-generate strong new ones and sync passwords across multiple devices, all while holding credit card details and other important documents in its secure vault.
There’s also support for Touch ID on the Mac and iPhone, Apple Watch compatibility, and the option of using two-step authentication.
Perhaps one of the reasons for its popularity is the reasonable pricing structure. An individual account costs £22.99 per year and can be used on all of your devices (macOS, iOS, Windows and Android). That seems like a bargain to us.
Price: Free from fave.co/2CSodje
Those looking for a simple, secure solution that doesn’t break the bank would do well to consider EnPass. It works on a device by device basis, with the macOS client being free and mobiles costing £9.99 each for a lifetime licence. This is achieved due to the fact that EnPass doesn’t store any of your information on its servers. Instead, everything is encrypted and kept on your personal device. Details can be synced securely via iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, or ownCloud/ WebDAV, to keep all of your devices in step.
You still have the classic features of other password managers, such as auto-fill forms,
security analysis of your passwords and generating complex replacements easily, secure storage for sensitive information and AES 256-bit encryption, plus support for iOS, Android and Apple Watch devices.
It’s a little more hands-on than some of the others in this list, but we like the no-nonsense approach and the fact that your data never leaves your device.