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Why You Might Want a Password Manager

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It's not uncommon for today's typical computer user to have more than 25 passwords for connecting to different websites...or even more. Some heavy-duty Internet users have hundreds of accounts that require passwords. It's not that uncommon.

How many online accounts that require a password do you have? More importantly, do you use the same password for more than a few of those accounts? That's where you may be in danger.

Why? Because these days, hackers routinely break into computer networks for banks or retail stores and steal the passwords of customer accounts. Other times, they may have obtained only usernames but not passwords, so they use a variety of tricks and programs to guess them.

And many times they succeed.

It's easy to understand why many people use the same password for several online accounts. Today, the average computer user opens a few new online accounts every month. For some folks, it's simply too much trouble to think of new, creative and unique passwords. If that's you, you're most likely...

  • Using the same password over and over
  • Using a slightly modified version of the same password (adding a different number at the end)
  • Using one of a few of your "go-to" passwords that you rotate for new online accounts
  • Forgetting which "go-to" password you used or which slightly modified version you used
  • Not worrying about it too much and use an incredibly simple password...like "1234"

Think you're creative? Not so fast.

Even those who think they have hard-to-figure-out passwords are often fooling themselves. Google did some research on how people create passwords and here's what they found out:

  • Putting a pet's name in the password is the number one thing that people do most.
  • A person's place of birth is also popular.
  • So is one of their children's names or nicknames.
  • People often use their favorite vacation spot in their password.
  • The word "password," believe it or not, is still a popular choice for some people, for some reason or another. (The hackers love you!)

Hackers may be crooks, but they're not idiots. They use social media to help them figure out people's passwords. You're likely not "friends" or have "connections" with too many hackers on social media, but that doesn't matter. Hackers are becoming adept at gathering clues to discover passwords.

Is there any way to stay safe and stay ahead of the bad guys?

The safest thing you can do is to create a unique (hard to figure out) password for every important online account...and to change those passwords once every six months or so. Of course, if you have a few dozen passwords all over the Web, you'll need to keep track of them all, because you're certainly not going to remember them.

Lucky for all of us, there's an alternative to writing all your passwords down somewhere...and risking either losing the list or having it fall into the wrong hands.

Think about using a password manager.

We're not talking about a live person, such as an IT manager at work.

By definition a password manager is "...a software application that helps a user store and organize passwords. Password managers usually store passwords encrypted, requiring the user to create a master password—a single, ideally very strong password which grants the user access to their entire password database."

In other words, a password manager comes to your rescue by eliminating the need to remember a long list of unique passwords, and much more. By first setting up a master (gateway) password with an online password manager service, you can then store your login information for all the websites you use and log in to them automatically. Your entire password database is encrypted and protected by your master password. Best of all, your master password is the only password you'll have to remember.

Doesn't that sound a lot easier?

If you're creating a new online account and it requires a password, a password manager will create a secure random password for you, taking that task out of your hands...and brain. With some password managers, you can arrange to have information such as your address, name and email address automatically filled in on Web pages that ask for it.

Password managers for hire.

Here are just some of today's more popular password managers:

You can find plenty of information about them online, as well as reviews and comparisons. There are some free password managers out there, but remember that services that charge a fee usually offer you more features, benefits and support. Do your research and you're certain to find a solution that works right for you.

In the meantime, stay safe online and please never use "password," "admin" or "1234" as a password.

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