Are password managers safe?


Is it time that you strengthen your password security? It’s easy to go through life using the same simple password for everything, from social media to email and banking. You might not have known about password security when you created your first accounts or just don’t want the hassle of remembering them. But weak passwords can expose your personal data to cybercriminals and leave you high and dry.

A 2021 study found that basic passwords such as ‘123456’ and ‘password’ had been used millions of times, taking less than a second to crack. But there is a way to create complex, unique passwords for all your online accounts without having to recite them every day.

This is where a password manager can help. Only around one in five people in the UK use one – but that’s in part due to lack of awareness. Below, we explain how they work and analyse their benefits and risks.

How password managers work

Password managers are a simple concept at first glance. These apps or browser extensions store all your passwords securely in one place, so you only need a master password to access them. You could even just use your fingerprint if using a smartphone.

Many password managers then fill out your login details for you across various accounts, saving you the effort of typing. Others will generate random, secure passwords for you, too, and may offer other security features.

How they actually protect your data can vary. Some password managers encrypt your passwords before they leave your device. Others will tell you to change passwords regularly and check their strength. Some will even scan the web to see if your details appear anywhere.

Pros and cons of password managers

It’s still wise to take other security measures, such as using a VPN for Android or iOS when on your smartphone or tablet. But it’s generally accepted that good password managers offer the best way to protect your passwords. That’s if you use a strong master password and two-factor authentication, at least.

The benefit that you’ll most likely notice first, though, is convenience. As well as filling out login details automatically, many apps will sync your passwords across your devices.

There are also downsides, however. You’ll be putting all your sensitive data in one place – so, if something goes wrong, all your accounts could be compromised. Changing passwords and blocking payments will take a long time, giving the hacker plenty of opportunity.

Another obvious threat is forgetting your master password. If you don’t have it written down anywhere, you could need to recover each login one by one.

Finally, as with any type of app, it’s wise to check reviews and choose a password manager that you can trust. Not all are built equal – but you shouldn’t skimp when it comes to password security.

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