The password managers we discussed in the last post are a good start. If you only use one system a local password database is all you need.
Most people have multiple “devices” – a PC, a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, and the number keeps growing. It would be terribly convenient to have access to your passwords on all of your devices, and to have everything automatically updated when you add or change a password.
This is where network – or today CLOUD BASED (highlighted for dramatic emphasis…) – password managers come into play. These networked password managers share, distribute, backup, and replicate your passwords.
Putting your passwords IN THE CLOUD should make you nervous. It is important to do your homework before choosing one – don’t just choose the first one that comes up on a search!
There are several places to look. Wikipedia has a List of Password Managers. Information Week has an article on 10 Top Password Managers. Network World published Best tools for protecting passwords. Mac World produced Mac password managers. At a minimum make sure that the password managers you are considering have at least some public review and feedback. You should also do web searches looking for user experience and any issues with the various password managers.
For cloud based password managers, one of the most important things is to make sure that you retain control of the passwords. This is done by encrypting the password data locally, on your system, and only sending encrypted data to the cloud. Done properly, the master encryption password for the password database never leaves your system – no one, including the company hosting your password manager, can decrypt your password. Of course this also means that if you lose your password manager password you are out of luck; no one can recover it.
As an anecdote, not a recommendation, a thoroughly paranoid colleague who works in the security space and whose opinions I respect recommends LastPass. I prefer open source password managers that can be audited, like KeePassX, but there don’t seem to be any with good Cloud integration.