Most roles in businesses today require user interaction with multiple software systems. To protect the systems and the users, there is usually some form of an authentication mechanism present, whether the system is on premise or in the cloud. This also applies whether the system is accessed via a dedicated application or on the web.
Authentication for multiple systems means keeping track of passwords across multiple applications. In fact, using a computer in a company usually requires authentication even before you get to applications. The need to remember multiple passwords usually creates a tradeoff where users are concerned. This tradeoff is between security and ease of remembrance. While having a different complex password for each system is recommended and more secure, the likelihood of remembering all of these is not very high. Therefore, users tend to either choose simpler passwords that are less secure, or they set up secure passwords and record them by writing them down. Neither of those two alternatives are secure. This is where Password managers come into play. Password managers are pieces of software designed to retain your passwords for various applications. Some even have browser plugins that allow them to fill in login forms on your behalf.
The password manager usually has its own password that must be remembered to get access to the others. Most also come with the ability to generate strong passwords so you can use them when setting up a new account.
Advantages of a Password Manager
• No need to remember passwords – This is possibly the biggest reason people turn to a password manager in the first place. Password managers allow you to set and forget your passwords as you can simply look them up whenever you need them. The only password you need to remember is the one needed to access the password manager.
• Password generation – As stated before, many password managers have the added functionality of generating passwords. These passwords are usually strong and resilient to hacking attempts as they tend to contain alphanumeric characters, symbols, and numbers.
• Ease of password changes – Many web pages require passwords to be changed at regular intervals. As most password managers have browser extensions, they usually detect when you are going through this process and assist in the form of suggesting new passwords. Of course, they provide the option to update their records when you successfully change a password.
• Single secure location – Of course, the data that password managers have is quite sensitive. Not only do password managers allow storage of passwords, but they also can store credit card information. Due to this, the information is stored in an encrypted vault that typically resides in the cloud.
Disadvantages of a Password Manager
• Forgetting the master password – This is nothing short of a disaster when it happens. Forgetting the master password can prevent you from accessing any of your stored passwords. Unfortunately, even the password manager’s creator oftentimes cannot help you to recover from this as they don’t keep the passwords. They do this to prevent hackers from escaping with master password data during a breach if one occurs.
• Don’t forget to sign out – Many people either forget to or just choose not to sign out of password managers. This prevents hampering of their workflow; however, it is the perfect opportunity for anyone with malicious intent to have a look once the user is not present. Also, if the device is stolen then all those passwords fall into the wrong hands.
Using a password manager is a secure and convenient way to store multiple passwords, however, you may want to be careful in your use of one as forgetting your master password or not signing out can be detrimental.