Should I Be Using a Password Protector?

Individuals considering a password protector should take the time to understand their needs, level of risk and how comfortable they feel using new programs and apps. From there, they can select a password protector that can provide a high degree of security, along with affordability and ease of use.

There are many unscrupulous people who seek to steal from and exploit other people online. This is why many online security experts advise everyone to select strong, unique passwords for the sites they use and visit. The trouble is that many people have multiple online accounts with banks, shopping services, utility companies, email providers and other organizations and businesses that do business on the internet. It's impossible to remember a unique, hard-to-guess password for each of these sites.

Making things more complicated is that many consumers have multiple connected devices, such as tablets, phones, smart TVs and computers. Users of these devices often find themselves having to remember and reenter passwords as they visit websites and use apps throughout the day. This can lead to confusion, frustration and users having to perpetually reset passwords set on one device but not remembered for use on another.

Because trying to manage five, 10 or even 20 different passwords is such a chore, many people give up and simply use one password for each site or choose incredibly easy-to-guess passwords. Sadly, these individuals are vulnerable to identity theft, financial crimes and even blackmail attempts. As a result, many security experts recommend using a password protector. In some cases, password protectors are integrated into web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Apple Safari. There are also standalone products, such as Dashlane or LastPass.

Choosing the right password protector can be a daunting task. Once you understand what these services can do and the ways that they can protect you and your data, you'll have an easier time selecting the service that meets your needs.

What Is a Password Protector?

A password protector can best be described as an electronic wallet (or vault, if you prefer) that stores all of your passwords. You have one master password for the protector itself. As you use apps and visit websites, the password protector app automatically responds to password requests by filling in your password for that site.

Your access to the password protector is a master password: Obviously, this master password should be difficult to guess. However, you will need to be able to remember it yourself as some password protectors take the additional step of making user master passwords unrecoverable.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Password Protector?

There are many advantages to using a password protector:

  • Increased personal security: A password protector helps you avoid the temptation to reuse passwords or choose passwords that are easy to guess.
  • Convenience: You'll never have to worry about forgetting or losing passwords again, nor will you have to stop and pause to look up a password. Finally, you'll never end up locked out of an account because you've maxed out the number of password "tries."
  • Multiple devices: You'll be able to maintain your password across multiple devices, reducing the ongoing problem of apps having different passwords than their corresponding websites.
  • Ease of settling or managing affairs: It's unpleasant to think about, but if someone dies or becomes incapacitated, their families and legal representatives can have difficulty managing their accounts without a list of passwords. With a password manager, you can provide your master password to your attorney or trusted family member so your affairs can be managed or settled if you are unable to handle these tasks yourself.

What Are the Disadvantages of Password Protectors?

While password protectors offer multiple advantages, you should be aware that they aren't a perfect solution to internet security and online convenience issues. Here are some of the potential drawbacks of using password protectors:

  • There is always the risk that you could lose or forget your master password. Some password protectors offer no way to recover your password, which would require you to set up a new account and then manually reset all of your passwords.
  • Your master password could be compromised, resulting in someone getting access to all of your accounts. To be fair, however, as of early 2021, there have been no cases of a password protection company's master passwords being hacked. While there have been some attempts and near-misses, the companies that provide password protectors are very secure.
  • Password protectors only work if your passwords are already secure. If your passwords are all along the lines of "MyPassword123," the password protector won't do you any good. The purpose of the password protector is to allow you to set complicated, impossible-to-memorize passwords for each of your accounts and apps, which are then managed by the protector for which you know the master password.
  • Not all password protectors are created equal: Some aren't as user-friendly as they might be, so you'll want to do some research into their features.

Selecting a Password Protector

Given the stakes, it's important to select a password protector that meets your needs. Take your time and be sure to read the fine print so that you know exactly what you're getting.

  • Your needs: If you're a standard internet user who needs to protect your passwords for email, shopping sites and mobile phone apps, your needs will be very different from that of a web developer or programmer who has passwords to full websites or network systems. If the latter example describes you, you'll want to find a password protector that incorporates high-level security features beyond what is available in consumer-focused protectors.
  • Ease of use: You'll want to consider your technical skills and ability to make use of new apps when choosing a password manager. If you're easily flustered, select a protector that's been developed for user-friendliness and the needs of casual internet users.
  • Cross-platform abilities: if you use multiple devices and different browsers and operating systems, you'll want a password protector that can sync devices, sites and systems seamlessly.
  • Special features: Some password protectors can store credit card numbers so that you can easily make purchases securely online without having to constantly search for a physical card. Others may provide secure digital storage of other sensitive documents.
  • Password generators: As noted, password protectors and managers only work if your passwords are hard to guess. It can be difficult for many people to select such passwords for themselves, so the best password protectors include the automatic generation of complex passwords for each site.
  • Cost: Some password protectors offer free versions, but you need to be aware of the limitations. In many cases, free services don't provide cross-platform use, which could prove to be a real challenge if you use multiple devices. In some cases, password protectors can be somewhat expensive, but it's also important to consider the cost versus the risk of being hacked and having your identity stolen.

Many major computer and technology websites and publications, such as PC World, regularly review and write about password protectors. You might want to check out these reviews and editorials when making your decision. Technology and internet security are in a constant state of change, and it's important to find a protector that reflects the current level of risk.

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Asked 6 months ago
Updated 6 months ago
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