What Is a Password Manager? An Ultimate Guide
This article focuses on a password manager and how it helps the users fight against identity theft and data breach. If you are looking for the answers for it as well, then stick with us. Read this article and get a detailed insight. Setting a strong password for your account is mandatory because otherwise, you can fall easy prey to password breaches.
The majority of the users neglect this security practice. They use a single, vulnerable, and easy-to-break password for all their accounts and apps. They don’t even update their password and share it with their colleagues at work. All this exposes significant risk to their data security. If we looked at the stats in 2019, 42% experienced data breaches because of poor password practice. Similarly, 81% of hacking-related events happen because of using compromised passwords.
Even 48% of the users have the same passwords for their work and personal account. It isn’t a good sign of a healthy cybersecurity culture. Having a strong and complex password is the first step towards securing data and other sensitive information on your account. You should set separate passwords for all your accounts. It should be complex and tough to break, but many users find it hard. If you are also the one, then you should start using a reliable password manager. But, what is a password manager? Let’s jump into this article to find more about it.
What is a Password Manager?
A password manager or a password vault is a useful software app that creates, stores, and organizes a strong username and password. They generate unique and complex passwords for different accounts and apps that maintain your online security and privacy. Besides this, it provides encryption to all users.
When you use a password manager, you have to remember the master password. The master password is a single password that provides access to all other stored passwords. You’re the owner of the master password, so; there isn’t any need to share it with anyone. Do keep it safe and avoid sharing it with anyone. You can use a password vault on any internet-connected device. It means that you can secure your PC, laptops, tablets, and smartphone with a password manager.
It protects the device and all the sensitive information in it from any attacker and third-party access. In this way, you prevent various cyber-attacks, including identity theft. There are even password managers or your web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. They may differ in their functions, but they all aim to protect your passwords from getting compromised. As a whole, a password manager is an excellent invention of the modern era. Besides generating and protecting our passwords, it offers other vital functions such as:
- Strong encryption
- Sync across multiple devices
- Autofill information on forms
- Credit monitoring
- Finger and facial recognition.
How Does a Password Manager Work?
Password managers are safe to use because they use different mechanisms to keep your password protected. However, hackers have become more advanced than before. By using tactics like phishing and brute force attacks, they can even break a strong password. But still, they all fail in front of a password vault. It means that they can’t break through a password manager. Wondering how?
Password managers use strong encryption to safeguard your password and boost your security level. Like a VPN, a password manager also uses the industry’s highest AES-256 bit encryption to encrypt the passwords. Since it isn’t easy to break the encryption without decryption keys, the attackers, despite adopting sophisticated techniques, fail to compromise the passwords. As mentioned above, all the passwords get stored in the master password. If you forget that password, you can’t access your password vault, and without that, no one can have your passwords.
Some password managers also implement two-factor authentication for added data security. They even use various biometric authentication methods like facial or fingerprint scans to verify your identity Moreover, password managers have a zero-knowledge architecture by which they protect the user data. It is a unique workflow structure under which all your passwords first undergo the encryption process and then leave the device. When they end up on a server, no one can decipher them because of a lack of tools. Also, password securing software comes with several extra features that strengthen your online security. Some of them alert you on updating your password, while others will determine the strength.
Some Common Types of Password Managers
There are different password managers available in the market. Each differs because of its encryption, price, security features, and storage capacity. Among all, below are the three common types of password managers. Let’s discuss each of them in brief:
Desktop-Based Password Manager
It stores all your passwords on your device like PC or laptops in an encrypted vault. In other words, it means that your passwords are not stored on any other network too. If you are using a desktop-based password manager, you can’t access the password from any device other than yours. All the data present on the device gets encrypted, and no one can access it. However, if you lose your device or get damaged, there is no way to get back all your passwords. You’ll lose them all. These password managers are not for the users who share their desktops with other people. Whenever they share the desktop, anyone can get hold of their passwords.
Cloud-Based Password Managers
As the name indicates, cloud-based password managers manage your encrypted passwords on a cloud network. The cloud service provider is responsible for maintaining the security of your password. The username and passwords first get stored on the service providers’ server and then transfers to the users’ browser. You can access the cloud-based passwords only if you have a stable internet connection. It is a significant drawback of cloud-based password managers that you can’t access them without the internet. LastPass and 1Pass are some excellent examples of such password managers.
Browser-Based Password Managers
All the popular and widely-used browsers like Chrome and Firefox come with a built-in feature to record and manage users’ credentials. You have often witnessed that whenever you log in, the browser asks you to store the data. Many users might consider it an easy way to access their accounts with no added charges. However, it is not secure to use. It lacks several advanced security features and is less safe than other password managers.
How a Password Manager Helps Us?
There are several scenarios in which a password manager helps us in making our lives easy. Besides keeping us protected, it has other handfuls of functions too. Some of the most prominent benefits of using a password manager include:
A password manager memorizes all your passwords. Now you don’t have to remember all the complex passwords for each account except one of the master passwords. If you use a desktop-based password manager, then you can only access it on your device. But the cloud-based ones allow you to access the password vault regardless of the device.
The first and foremost important task of a password manager is to generate a strong and complex password for your account. These passwords are according to the criteria given by the NIST and are impossible to crack. They are long, use both upper and lower case, along with a combination of alphanumeric characters.
Alerts You On a Malicious Site
Most of the time, hackers use phishing or spoofed email tactics to trick the users and have their information. When you receive any such email, you fail to recognize them and click on the malicious link. Of course, you will be redirected to a malicious site that might ask you to give away your personal information, including your passwords. With a browser-based password manager, it won’t autofill the fields which request your username and password. It is because it fails to recognize the website and will warn you not to continue with it.
Password managers save a lot of the user’s time. Since they store the passwords so, they autofill credentials to make your access faster to your accounts. They even autofill your name, email address, credit card info, and other relevant information. This saves a lot the time, particularly when you are shopping or making any online order.
Protection Against Identity Theft
Password managers protect you against identity theft. When you use different, unique, and complex passwords for each site, you are closing the doors for hackers to invade your accounts. Usually, when a hacker comprises a single account, they manage to control all other accounts. It results in identity theft, but with a password manager, this won’t happen. It uses AES-256 bit encryption along with a 2FA feature that adds an extra layer of protection to your account. Even if they attempt to breach your password, you will get notified, and you can even change your password as soon as possible.
Sync Different Operating Systems
No matter if you use various devices at a time, you can still use password managers on all your devices. Whenever you switch on a new device, it first syncs it to make sure there isn’t any threat or vulnerability.
Free Vs. Premium Password Managers: Which Is Safe to Use?
Password managers have both free and premium versions. The premium password managers are a much better and safer option to use. The majority of the free ones are not at all reliable to use. They lack several essential security and even include malware within it. Using it can infect your device with malware and might risk your sensitive data. However, there are a few free password managers that you can consider using. Many password managers have both free and premium versions. You can use the free version first and, if satisfied, subscribe to the paid ones.
The premium password vaults are the best option to consider. You can trust them as they use military-grade encryption along with zero-knowledge architecture to protect your passwords. These mechanisms give no way to the hackers to get access to the passwords because they can’t decipher them. Also, they have a master password and 2FA feature to keep your device secured and malware-free. Hence, it’s always recommended to choose a premium password manager over the free ones.
Using a strong password on all your accounts is a sign of a healthy cybersecurity culture. It would be best if you had a separate and complex password for all your accounts. Don’t use the same password across all apps and accounts. If you do so, then there are more chances of you getting compromised. A hacker getting hold of one account can compromise all other ones too. If you have a hard time creating and remembering a strong password, so use a password manager. A password manager is a great option to create multiple usernames and passwords for your account. Hopefully, with this article, you have better knowledge about password managers and how they help us.