What is a Password Manager?

123456. Password. ABC123. QWERTY. If any of these sound familiar—no, we’re not magicians—then you’re fallen afoul of a handful of the most popular passwords used in Australia. Scarily, all of these passwords take cybercriminals all of one second to crack. The prevailing logic for creating better passwords is to make them longer, more random, and toss in a mix of capitals, numerals and unexpected characters.

Basically, the less like a word a password is, the stronger it will be. But while that might make a password more secure, it does make it trickier to recollect, and jotting down all of your passwords undermines the whole point of security. Thankfully, password managers are the solution to creating and storing secure passwords

What is a password manager?

A password manager is a tool that generates and securely stores passwords. Instead of using the same password or few across all of your online accounts, a password manager can generate complex and secure password combinations.

Mercifully, password managers are then accessed via a single master password, so despite them holding a library of potentially thousands of passwords, you only need to remember one.

More popular password managers like LastPass and 1Password support key platforms, including iOS, Android, Mac, as well as browser extensions.

What’s the point of using a password manager?

It feels like every other week there’s a big-name company announcing that its data has leaked. If you have an account with that company, there’s a good chance your username and password has been compromised. If your username is an email address—which is very common for website logins—cybercriminals can use your leaked email address and password credentials to try and access your information on other websites.

While leaks are an unfortunate inevitability these days, having a different password for every login you use means a leak from one place doesn’t have to impact your security elsewhere. With a password manager, you can update passwords with a few clicks or taps.

To check whether your information has leaked, there’s a website dedicated to searching data breaches. Unfortunately, it’s very likely your email address will be linked to past or recent breaches, which is why it’s a good idea to have different passwords across websites. It’s also a good idea to change your password whenever prompted or whenever you hear about a data leak on a site or service you use.

How to use a password manager

Find a password manager you like—LastPass and 1Password are two of the most popular ones, so start there—and create a memorable but strong master password. We like to use a mix of deliberately misspelt words with random capitalisation and a sporadic mix of numbers as a good starting point. The longer the password, the better the chance it’s secure, but you still want something you can easily recall for a master password.

A password manager can then scan for existing logins, or you can import them manually. Password managers also tend to favour browser extensions to save new credentials with a single click whenever you’re creating new accounts. When creating a new account or updating a password, a secure password tends to be recommended or is a few clicks away to tweaking its complexity. Whatever the resultant password, you won’t have to remember it or jot it down because the password manager will do that for you.

The next time you go to enter your credentials saved in the password manager, the tool can auto-fill your saved username and password details, so it’s not just data-saving, it’s also timesaving. Password managers can also keep secure notes for important information that you’d like to have on hand but don’t want to jot down. If you share passwords with family members or colleagues, you can share them securely with a password manager, plus you can also audit passwords to see which ones need updating.

How much does a password manager cost?

Best password manager
LastPass
LastPass
Starts at
$4.50
/mo
pro Free version available
pro Affordable
pro Military-grade encryption

Price is accurate as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Password managers range from free to between $5 and $10 a month, depending on the provider and whether you’re buying an individual plan or a family plan. Google Chrome offers a free password manager as part of the browser, and it’s a great place to start to get a feel for the value of a password manager. Google Password Manager lets you search your saved passwords, generate new or updated passwords, and you can even run a password check-up.

Remember that this is only as secure as your Google password, and we highly recommend implementing multi-factor authentication as an additional layer of security. To explore the value of a premium password manager, we advise starting with a free version or free trial.

Paying for a password manager gives you access to more advanced features, including the option to scan the web for data breaches, password auditing and automatic password upgrading. You can also opt to pay for a family plan that offers multiple logins per account and lets you easily share credentials with other trusted people on your account.

Are password managers safe?

Because password managers store all of your passwords, they’re only as safe as the strength of their security. Premium services tend to offer layers of security for greater peace of mind, but it all boils down to how easily your account can be accessed with your master password. Ensuring you have a secure master password and enabling multi-factor authentication will help secure your account and offer better peace of mind.


Disclaimer
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time of publish and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on the retailer’s website at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. SafeWise Australia utilises paid affiliate links.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence

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