Passwords are a fundamental instrument for protecting our valuable information. It’s impossible to exist in the online world, let alone the business part of it, without using passwords. Now more than ever, healthy and responsible password management practices play a prominent role in our everyday lives.
This is where password managers come in. These nifty tools have gained tremendous popularity among both businesses and individuals over the past few years. They address the most important challenges that exist in traditional password management.
In this article, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of password managers and examine where they store your passwords. We’ll also share with you some of the best password managers, including free ones. Read on to learn more.
What are Password Managers?
In simple terms, a password manager is a program that stores your passwords and generates safe new ones. The main function of password managers is that they free you from memorizing passwords.
You only need to remember the master password that you use to access all other passwords. Furthermore, some password managers allow biometric identification. So, you can take advantage of a face or fingerprint scanner and don’t even have to remember a master password.
Thanks to the password manager, you can connect all of your accounts and use autosave and autofill features to conveniently access them across all devices. This seemingly magical security system undeniably sounds intriguing, but it’s also important to answer the next key question.
Where do Password Managers Store Passwords?
To fully understand the basics of how password management as a service works, it’s also essential to know how password managers store passwords. We can classify three distinct types of password managers based on their password-storing practices. These are:
- Offline Password Managers - These password managers are installed locally on your device. Offline password managers eliminate the risk of someone remotely breaching your password vault. However, the tradeoff is that you can only access the password vault on one device. So, if you lose the device, you also lose the vault.
- Online Password Managers - Unlike the previous type of password managers, these services store your passwords in the cloud. This enables convenient password syncing across many devices. But, you need an Internet connection for authentication.
- Hardware-based Password Managers - The third type of password managers utilize physical hardware, often a flash USB device. These are incredibly safe, as your credentials are stored in a safe separate space, and there’s no need for synchronization. On the other hand, you need to purchase proprietary hardware and software. Moreover, losing the device also means losing access.
Is it Safe to Use Password Managers?
Yes, password managers are generally safe to use. With a password manager, you don’t have to memorize all of your passwords and can even handily use auto-generated passwords that are strong and secure. What’s more, you can sync them across devices and save time when logging in to sites and services.
For businesses, a reliable password manager also means less strain on the IT department. Shared account management works smoothly, and the onboarding/offboarding process is streamlined.
But, while password managers unquestionably bring many benefits to the table, you should also consider the drawbacks. Namely, password managers have been hacked in the past. With a password manager, there’s always a potential threat of a single point of failure. If the password manager itself gets hacked, you’ll be scrambling to protect all of your accounts.
Considering both sides, both the pros and cons of password managers are completely legitimate. Still, by having proper security practices and choosing the right password manager, the advantages far outweigh the negative aspects.
Can Saved Passwords be Hacked?
Yes, a saved password can absolutely be hacked. Unfortunately, many online users aren’t aware of this fact. In fact, LastPass, one of the world’s biggest password managers, is a prime example of this, and one that still remains in fresh memory.
The massive breach resulted in stolen portions of source code and technical information, according to LastPass’ CEO. Although LastPass ensured its users that no action was required, the surfacing of this incident was undoubtedly a nerve-racking event for many users.
Staying on the topic of source code, the attackers were able to steal it because LastPass used proprietary code and not the preferred open-source code. With open-source code, users can inspect the code and actively contribute to its betterment. With proprietary code, you must fully trust that the company is doing its due diligence to ensure there are no weak points.
With all of this said, we should also remain objective. These occurrences are rare. Even with this incident in mind, using a password manager is still more secure than manually typing your passwords from memory.
At the same time, password managers are significantly less secure than passwordless authentication. This type of authentication is based on FIDO2 (Fast Identity Online) and U2F (Universal 2nd Factor) standards.
You don’t necessarily need to remember the full extension of what these acronyms stand for. But, it's key to know that they enable you to entirely eliminate password use while staying safe online. While FIDO2 enables passwordless authentication, U2F is designed to be a second factor for passwords.
What is a Good Free Password Manager?
In the previous section, we’ve established that even some of the best-known password managers aren’t impervious attacks and can be compromised. So, is there a good password manager you can rely on? Moreover, what is a good free password manager that you can use without putting your information at risk?
The answer is yes, if you’re looking for trustworthy password management programs, there is one tool we can recommend. This is Bitwarden. It’s an open-source password manager that’s been in business for over half a decade.
Bitwardern is a very capable tool, considering that it comes entirely free of charge. It enables you to generate, sync, and share your passwords, as well as utilize plenty of other features. From a user standpoint, it’s good to know that it allows for convenient syncing across all major platforms. It implements AES 256-bit encryption and is very safe. Here’s a closer look at Bitwarden’s biggest advantages and drawbacks:
Pros of Bitwarden
- Excellent free version
- Very customizable with plenty of tools
- Easy to use even for beginners
- Premium plans are very affordable
- Open source
Cons of Bitwarden
- The user interface needs some polishing
- Based in the US
Best Password Manager for Individuals
Dashlane offers password management and protection for both individuals and businesses. While it excels in both fields, it’s particularly terrific as an online password manager for individual users.
It uses robust end-to-end encryption to protect your data and is loaded with advanced features. Its apps and browser extension are phenomenal, and customer support is very helpful and responsive. Moreover, its interface is very intuitive and enables Dashlane to cater equally to both novice and experienced users.
Pros of Dashlane
- Solid free plan
- Comes with VPN features
- Dark web monitoring
- Unlimited devices with a paid subscription
- Great customer support
- Convenient syncing between devices
Cons of Dashlane
- More capable plans are a bit expensive
- Based in the US
Best Password Manager for Businesses
Nowadays, there’s certainly no shortage of password manager enterprise versions. But, it doesn’t mean that all of the tools available out there are worth your attention. This is why it’s important to always do your research and thoroughly know everything about the password manager for business before committing to it.
While we can’t vouch for other tools out there, we can say that Hideez Key 4 serves as a universal identity and access management tool with password management feature. Hideez allows you to choose different authentication methods and its tools can work as:
- Password Manager and OTP Generator − The Hideez Key 4 stores and automatically fills in your login credentials at a push of a button. It can do so even from locally stored files like PDFs, Excel sheets, and more.
- Phishing Protection Tool − This tool also protects you from phishing threats, as it doesn’t let you input your passwords to non-genuine sites and apps. This prevents you from accidentally giving valuable information by falling for a phishing scam.
- Security Key for Passwordless Authentication − With FIDO2 and U2F certification, it can serve as your main verification factor. In other words, you can use it across many FIDO-enabled sites and services, such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and others.
- Proximity Look − If you use the Hideez Key 4 password manager on Windows, you can also employ it as a proximity lock. You can automatically lock/unlock your PC to get both passwordless protection and a smoother user experience.
In addition to all of these benefits, it’s important to mention that the Hideez Key 4 can be used by both individual users and businesses. Focusing on the latter, it works as a part of the overall Hideez Service, a universal IAM system for businesses. Lastly, enterprises can also get a 30-day free trial after scheduling a demo call.
Which Password Manager is the Most Secure?
Ultimately, the answer to the question of what is the best password manager for business or personal needs is a subjective one. Only you can tell what specific type of password management works best for you. That said, there’s no doubt that the most secure way of securing your passwords is to buy a hardware device.
When you have a hardware password manager, you can circumvent some of the inherent password manager vulnerabilities. Your passwords will be physically separated from your main device. This way, the risk of any data leaks is minimal.
What’s more, from a financial perspective, it’s important to note that you won’t have to pay any recurring subscription fees. Lastly, if you go with a hardware manager like Hideez, you can count on updatable firmware. This is a massively significant aspect, as it helps you future-proof your device and benefit from uncompromising security long after your purchase.