September 2018

Managing Those Annoying Passwords

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Not long ago television news reported on high school students who had invented a password storage device and were setting up a business to sell it. The device stored passwords and allowed the user to access them by displaying a fingerprint.

The whole password situation is very annoying. It is often tempting to decide against visiting a site or doing anything on it, simply to avoid adding yet another password to your collection. Many people use the same password over and over, a practice the experts strongly disparage. The experts also think you should change your passwords on a regular basis, another thing most of us don’t bother with.

A notebook or small Rolodex by your computer can be used to store all your passwords keeping them easily accessible when at the computer. This makes them accessible to people with whom you are living; but will a burglar come by and decide to sit down and use them? Probably not.

As computer operating systems became more sophisticated, they began to include automatic storage for passwords. The Macintosh version is called Keychain Access and is so deeply buried within the system that the user is unaware of it until it pops up asking if you want to save a newly created password.

Microsoft has fumbled with providing a built-in password manager. Windows 7 had a version called Credential Manager. Windows 10, for a short period had one called Keeper, but researchers found that Keeper was easy to hack into and users’ passwords could be stolen by websites. The latest version of Windows 10 has a password manager called Microsoft Edge. The user may have to go to Settings > Advanced Settings to make sure it is on and the actual list of passwords, as on the Mac, is deeply buried. There are online instructions (including demonstrations on YouTube) to tell you how to do it.

A good password manager can suggest new passwords for you giving you long complex ones you would never remember. It can also automatically (autofill) fill in personal information on Web forms. That would include name, address, phone number, etc., but there are websites that will not take autofill and demand that you type the information in yourself.

Some of the best stand-alone (i.e., not built into an operating system) password managers are Dashlane, Sticky Password, RoboForm, and LastPass.

No doubt the future is going to offer much better way of handling passwords. John McAfee, founder of the anti-virus company, launched Everykey at the end of 2015. With the slogan “No more passwords – No more keys” this device unlocks your doors and turns on access to your passwords. 

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