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Password Managers: why you need one and which one to use

Password Manager

If you already understand why you need a password manager - that's good. Skip the next bit and get one now.

If you don't know why you need one, you probably need one more than most.

The "security" logic is simple:

  • You are a member of many sites that require you to log in to access them: many of those sites are ones you would not want "bad people" to have access to.
  • The number of such sites is almost certainly going to increase over time.
  • For many of those site, you should be using "strong" passwords - (consisting of 10 or more characters, including upper and lower case, numbers and, ideally symbol characters).
  • You may be able to remember one or two such passwords - but (unless you're Tony Buzan), that's probably your limit. 
  • Without a password manager, you will either have to use the SAME password on multiple sites OR you will have to write them down somewhere: in both cases, that is a potentially serious security weakness.

Another security benefit is that a good password manager will defeat basic keyloggers. More advanced malware that goes beyond keylogging can capture the information that a password manager uses to populate a login form - so you should always protect yourself using virus checking software.

Although increased security is the most important reason to use a password manager, you also get increased efficiency because it saves you from having to manually enter your login credentials. I use my password manager innumerable times every single day: I can log in and out of sites with such ease - even sites I've not visited for years (including those I'd forgotten I had an account with) - that I can't imaging my online life without it. 

The final benefit is auto-form-filling - available with some password managers.

For example, you could store information which you often need when completing forms, such as your name, address, birthday, credit card number, tax number etc. This can be held as securely as your passwords and used to auto-fill forms online. In fact, you can store information for multiple identities (e.g. a Business identity and a Personal identity - and more if your life is that complex!)

In keeping with my approach of simplifying your digital life wherever I can, I'm not going subject you to a review multiple password managers - I'm simply going to make a recommendation and suggest you get that, install it and get back to your main business.

My recommendation is Roboform.

RoboformRoboform was one of the first (if the THE first) password manager, and has evolved based on user feedback to include everything you could want.

There are versions for every platform (Windows, MAC, Android, IOS, Windows Phone, Linux, USB and a few more).

Mobile versions are free. Desktop ones incur a once-off per-machine license.

But the only sensible option, in my view, is to get Roboform Everywhere. You will be charged a small, annual license, but you can install it on as many machines as you wish, and all your data gets auto-synchronized across all instances. Which is exactly what you want.

The only remaining requirement is that you may well wish to access it on machines which you don't own.

In this case, you have two choices:

Roboform2Go - which allows you to carry Roboform and all its data on a USB stick and use it on any machine 

Roboform Online - which allows you to access all your password via any browser.

Both of these are included in a Roboform Everywhere license.

Now, I know some people will think that having all their passwords stored online is itself a major vulnerability. But if you are using any form of web-based email, you're exposing yourself to pretty much the same level of security risk as having all your passwords available online.

However, with a password manager you can ensure that your webmail password is exceptionally strong - as you can for your internet banking and other critical online sites - and they can (and should) ALL be different. And the way Roboform works, you can protect all your passwords behind not one, but TWO strong passwords which give you access to any of them via any of your instances of Roboform.

In my view, a password manager is a core tool for anyone with more than a minimal online existence. For a business owner, I'd say it was essential.


Alex Goodall



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