Management Matters: All about password managers
Vol. 77, No. 5 / Sept. - Oct. 2021
Barron K. Henley
Barron K. Henley is a partner with Affinity Consulting Group.
A password manager is a program that can securely store and organize your logins, passwords, credit card information, bank account information, IDs (driver’s licenses, passports, etc.), and any other piece of information you might need (e.g., your children’s social security numbers, your frequent flyer number, or the license plate number for your car).
If you were asked to list the number of logins and passwords that you have, you probably couldn’t do it. We try to use common words, kids’ names, or anniversaries, but every login we set up has different password requirements. Some prohibit you from using a password you have used in the past, a password that has any part of your name in it, and more. It makes creating and remembering passwords a real burden. However, it is a necessary burden. We rely now more than ever on subscriptions and services that require a login – for our own personal information, as well as our client information. To eliminate the stress of remembering it all or trying to write them all down somewhere, the answer is a password manager.
Why You Need a Password Manager
First, it’s a great place to store lots of key information. A good password manager allows you to share all that information – from simple things, like logins, to more critical things, like estate documents – with loved ones. Second, it’s a place to keep all your credentials and personal information in one place which you can access from any phone, tablet, or Mac/PC (provided you can authenticate yourself). All password managers will generate and store strong passwords so you don’t have to make them up. They can be long and complex; things you would never remember, much less invent. Password managers inform you if any of your passwords are weak and recommend that they be changed. Password managers can tell you how many different websites are using the same password (for security reasons, it’s not recommended that you use the same password for everything). Many also notify you if security breaches are reported for any of your accounts and recommend that you change those passwords.
Password managers come at a very small cost. And while some are free, we recommend paying for the tool – and getting all the features.
Protecting your password manager login with two-factor authentication is critical. Only requiring a simple username and password has made it easy for criminals to gain access to data that should be private – both your personal and client data. Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security because you must have your username, password, and some additional piece of information that only you will know (such as a code that is sent to your phone via text message by the password manager).
Fill Web Forms
Tired of filling out sign-up forms online? Have your password manager do the work for you! Not all products have this feature, but we recommend choosing one that offers it.
Another feature we like is the ability to have multiple “identities” in your password manager. Having a personal identity and a business identity is extremely convenient. Quickly being able to enter a work address and a business credit card on a registration form is a nice benefit.
At the beginning of the article, we mentioned subscriptions and services – but you may very well have traditional software installed at your office that requires a login and password. Password managers can manage those, too – it’s not just for cloud-based logins.
Before password managers, many of us allowed Chrome, Edge, Safari, Firefox, or our browser of choice to “save” the login information for us. Having a password manager is a much safer way to do that, and it isn’t impacted when you get a new computer, clear out your cookies, or simply start using another browser. Even better, many password managers can import your saved logins from your browser.
Missouri Bar members have access to white pages and comparison sheets on password managers, two-factor authentication, and more. If you have questions, email a practice management expert or set up a no-cost consultation at MoBar.org/lpm.
1 Barron K. Henley is a partner with Affinity Consulting Group.