Let’s get it out of the way: passwords suck.There’s not a single attractive thing about having to use them – except for the fact that in many cases they are guarding your most sensitive or confidential information, legal or otherwise. I keep looking, but I have yet to meet a lawyer who professes any level of love for the password.
For the past few years, we keep hearing stories about tech companies trying to wipe out the password, and find other ways of protecting our information that aren’t such a pain to use and maintain. So far, not much has come of it. Recently, though, a new company called Beyond Identity is doing some very interesting things to get rid of the password. The company’s technology basically extends the “chain of trust” that web communications use to the individual user and their devices, making logins completely frictionless.
But here’s the bad news: so far Beyond Identity is selling its technology to corporations. It will be a while before a product like this gets to the broader business market and then to consumers in general. In the meantime, we still have experts telling us that to foil the bad guys, we must have passwords that are
- long (8 or more characters) and
- complicated (letters, numbers, and symbols).
Left to our own devices, past experience has shown that we are most likely to come up with passwords that
- are relatively easy to guess because we want to remember them ourselves, and
- we use for most of our logins.
So, what’s the answer?
Sorry, but it’s time you started using a password manager.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll walk through selecting, installing, and using some of the best password managers out there, and get you to what I believe is a place where dealing with passwords in a secure way is basically second nature. But before we can even get there, I suppose I’ve got to first make the case that a password manager is a necessary tool for lawyers – right?
Okay, here goes.
First, what is a password manager? Let’s all get on the same page. A password manager is exactly what it says – it’s a software application that helps you properly manage your passwords. It essentially takes on all of the responsibility of passwords that you don’t want to have – coming up with a complicated password and remembering it. That’s it. They are actually pretty simple tools.
What other problems does a password manager solve?
Reuse of passwords. An older lawyer who I love dearly uses his daughter’s name as his main password, adding “1,” “2,” “3,” “1234,” or sometimes when he’s feeling brave he’ll add a “!” I know that the day a hacker comes across one of his passwords (likely through a data breach of one of the services he uses online to shop), it won’t take long for the hacker to gain access to all of his online accounts. A password manager generates stronger, complicated, UNIQUE passwords for every online account you have, meaning that even if you happen to be the victim of a data breach, you can rest assured the hacker won’t have access to the rest of your sites.
No more typing in passwords. Password managers can auto-fill your username and password – and even other information as well, including payment information, address/contact details, and more. That’s great because you no longer have to type a password in, hoping you got it right – or worse, having a nosy neighbor on the plane looking over your shoulder as you type.
Secure Sharing of Passwords. The better password managers allow you to securely share your passwords with your family, or even your colleagues at work. This is great for those accounts where you need to share a password with other people (which is less and less common), or where you might want someone you trust to have access to your account if something happens to you. Using a password manager, you ensure that your family and coworkers are taking the same care with the password that you would.
The misery and torture of having to manually manage your passwords. Stop writing them on sticky notes. Stop loading them into a password-protected Word document on your computer that might accidentally get deleted. Just stop. The #1 benefit of a password manager is peace of mind.
I’m going to stop there – I rest my case. I’m going to make the assumption that I’ve persuaded at least some of you to look into these things called password managers and see how they really work. That’s where we’ll go next week.
Next up: selecting the right password manager.