Password managers are a tool to help alleviate the stress of having a ton of passwords and help defend against hackers by generating and storing a different password for each of your online accounts. These services store your login information behind a single encrypted key called a master password (the only one that you have to remember) and can also log in automatically to all your favorite websites.
So what's the most important things to look for in a password manager? Read on for Money's advice.
1. Seamless log-in functions across platforms and devices
Once it’s set up, a good password manager will be able to store an unlimited amount of login data, allowing you to safely navigate across platforms on all of your devices, regardless of whether they run the same software or have different makes. Password managers’ autofill features integrate either automatic or single-click login options to allow you to seamlessly move from your computer to your tablet or phone.
2. Security Features
A strong password manager should be built around advanced cryptographic algorithms, such as SHA-256. Most programs employ either two-factor authentication (2FA) or biometrics. This adds a strong layer of security by pairing something you know, such as your password, with something you have, like your fingerprint or mobile phone. Finally, the program you choose should include a strong password generator. These applications create complex passwords that you can customize for length and characters to fit the password requirements for each account.
3. Emergency and Legacy Access
Emergency and legacy access will allow you to set up an emergency contact in case you lose access to your account. Password managers that don’t offer some kind of emergency access shouldn’t even be considered. It’s important to point out that since all your information is encrypted, password manager support teams won’t have a way to unlock or retrieve access to your account if the master password is lost. The best practice is to select a master password in the form of a personally memorable phrase that only you’ll remember.
4. Security Alerts
Most password managers are now offering web surveillance and security alert features that monitor your email and password information on the web, cross-checking against known data breaches to inform you if any of your personal data is compromised. Additionally, security alerts can be set to inform you of any suspicious activity with your email or if anybody tries to gain access using your credentials.
Lastly, it’s important to know what kind of customer support you will have in case it’s needed. There’s no point in having a centralized password control if you lose access to all the login, personal documents, and credit card information you’ve stored. Look for services that offer around the clock chat or phone support to help with setup issues, as well as to assist in emergency lockout situations. Phone or chat support should be preferred above those services that only handle cases through email tickets, which can keep you waiting a week or more for a response.