The default (and very dangerous) reaction to this deluge of portals and devices that require authentication is to simply use the same user name and password combination that we use for all our accounts. Even more reckless are those who choose the least resistant path to online security with such stellar passwords as “password,” “12345,” or the default manufacturer’s password.
You get the point. Cybersecurity is really important, but it can be a pain to enforce. The solution is, of course, more technology.
Software password managers take the hard part out of maintaining complex access codes. They have been around for a while, but maybe you have tried one of these programs in the past and found it clunky, incomplete, or just too burdensome to use. Perhaps it’s time to take a fresh look. We did, and we were pleasantly surprised.
BACK FROM THE DEAD
We resurrected LastPass (www.lastpass.com), which we had taken for a trial run several years ago. This time we ponied up for the premium version, which set us back $12. Believe me, Bill spends more on coffee over the weekend than it costs to bolster our cybersecurity for an entire year.
The idea behind LastPass (and all password management programs) is to have one master login and password to the password manager, and let the manager maintain all your individual account credentials. Therefore, it is imperative that the master password you choose is very strong. Of course, as the software name suggests, this is the last password that you will need to remember.
But LastPass goes a step further than just requiring this master password. It also uses two-factor authentication, which means an imposter would need both your master password and your smartphone to gain access to your password vault.
We found it was very easy to set up access to secure portals within our LastPass vault. As you log into a secure site, you can click the LastPass icon in the credentials box, and the application asks if you would like to save the site and login credentials to your vault.
We like the way you can organize your various sites in the vault into custom folders, like travel, email, banking, cloud storage, etc. When we want to log into Southwest.com, for example, we simply go to LastPass and click the Southwest card in our vault. LastPass takes us to the site and logs in automatically.
Yes, it is that easy.
You can even specify folders where you share access to certain sites with other individuals (such as family members) but keep other sites private to yourself.
LastPass has a great feature called Security Challenge, which will go through all your accounts, analyze the passwords and give you a security score. If you find out, like we did, that some of your passwords are duplicative or are not sufficiently complex, LastPass will let you auto-generate new passwords that are highly unlikely to be guessed by a hacker.
This security review is highly recommended, as it would make no sense to deploy a password manager to manage very weak passwords. We chose to let LastPass generate 16-character passwords for all the sites we kept in our vault.
SYNC IT UP
Once you begin using a password manager and the system-generated passwords, it is important that you can utilize it on all devices and that your site credentials automatically sync across all devices. LastPass has apps on Windows, iOS and Android, which allows you to use it across all platforms.
After adding a couple dozen sites into the LastPass vault and then accessing those sites from our PC, tablet and smartphone, we knew this was an incredible step forward for both our personal cybersecurity defense as well as convenience. Some may chafe at having to set up the password vault in the beginning and commit to using the password manager on all devices, but once the initial setup is done, LastPass is a very convenient way to access all our secure content.
We can’t believe we waited so long to commit.
We know it is a scary world out there, with so much of our personal data sitting behind numerous password-protected security gates. Rather than being lazy and putting out a welcome mat to cybercriminals, we choose to reinforce the defenses with a sound password strategy. LastPass helped us do that at a very low cost and just a little bit of commitment.
We sleep better knowing it’s in the vault.