How to protect and secure your password manager

Password question mark concept

Getty Images/Sean Gladwell

It is almost impossible to create and remember a complex and unique password for each of your accounts without help. And today, that help can best be found in one password manager.

Also: 6 Best Password Managers: Easily Maintain All Your Logins

A good password manager will create, store, and apply strong and complex passwords across the board, thereby protecting your account. I’ve been using a password manager for years and wouldn’t be able to manage all of my online accounts without it.

However, since your password manager contains sensitive login details for all your accounts, you need to protect the password manager itself from any potential compromise. Violations for services such as LastPass and Norton LifeLock show that password management service providers are certainly not immune to cyberattacks. While such breaches may not directly expose login passwords, they do leave users of these services more vulnerable.

To protect yourself and your password information, you should take steps yourself to protect your account.

  1. Create a strong master password to protect your account from unwanted access.
  2. Enable biometric authentication for password managers on your PC and mobile devices.
  3. Enable two-factor authentication to prevent someone from logging into your password manager account if it is compromised.

Also: Leaving LastPass? Here’s how to get your password out

We’ll look at each step in more depth below. To do different steps I am using RoboForm as an example, but the overall procedure should be the same for any master password manager.

When you set up your password manager for the first time, you’ll be asked to create a master password. That password should be strong and complex because it’s the primary line of defense for all your login details, both on your own devices and in the cloud.

However, you will occasionally need to enter your master password, so you also want it to be easy to remember and not too difficult to type. That’s why I recommend using a passphrase instead of a password. Consisting of different words or phrases, the right type of passphrase can be more secure than a complex password but easier to remember.

Also: You’re definitely not getting the most out of your password manager

To create a strong passphrase, use a series of words or phrases that are significant or meaningful to you so that you can easily recall them. I also want to mix upper and lower case characters as well as numbers and symbols. Just make sure you can remember your master passphrase. If you forget, you’ll have to start over with your password manager.

This ZDNET article provides some helpful tips for generating healthy passphrases. 1Password offers a online password generator that will suggest and help you stylish passphrases. Once you’ve selected the correct one, type and then re-enter at the appropriate window for your password manager.

Create a strong master password for your password manager

Create a strong master password for your password manager

Lance Whitney/ZDNET

Biometric authentication provides a secure and convenient alternative to passwords or PINs, especially with password managers. Instead of having to enter your master password every time you want to activate the password manager, use your face or your finger to verify your identity.

Also: 3 Security Gadgets I Never Leave Home Without

Most password managers will allow you to use any type of biometric authentication built into your device or operating system. On a Windows PC, that means Windows Hello. On an iPhone or iPad, that means Face ID or Touch ID. And on Android devices, that means facial or fingerprint recognition.

Check the security settings for your password manager and find the option to switch to integrated biometric authentication. You are required to enter your master password to confirm the conversion.

Set up biometric authentication for your password manager

Set up biometric authentication for your password manager

Lance Whitney/Screenshot

From then on, you’ll be able to open or activate the password manager using your chosen form of authentication. You may still be asked to enter your master password at certain intervals or make specific changes. Otherwise, your face or fingers will do it.

Use facial recognition or fingerprints to log in to your password manager

Use facial recognition or fingerprints to log in to your password manager

Lance Whitney/Screenshot

If hackers know your master password, you want to make sure they can’t log into your password manager account on one of their devices. For this you can turn to two-factor authentication (2FA)which most password managers should support at this point.

View the settings for your particular password manager to see if it offers the option of two-factor authentication or one-time passwords. If so, enable that option. If given a choice between email, SMS, or an authenticator app, choose an authenticator as that’s the safest method.

Enable two-factor authentication for your password manager

Enable two-factor authentication for your password manager

Lance Whitney/Screenshot

The next time you try to use your password manager on a new PC or mobile device, you’ll be sent a one-time password via your preferred method. Enter a one-time password when prompted, and that new device will be erased to use your password manager. Your password manager’s account page may also list all registered devices so you can check for any suspicious devices and remove any you no longer use.

In addition to the three security options I discussed, different password managers may offer additional options. Your best bet is to check your product-specific security settings and take advantage of any that will help protect your account and login information from abuse or compromise.


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