Do I *REALLY* Need a Password Manager?

You may have heard that you need a password manager. But many people still haven’t started using one yet.

If you’re one of those people, let us try to explain why you should finally make the leap.

Passwords Make The Digital World Turn

Passwords make our digital lives possible. They keep your digital accounts private. They stop bad guys from pretending to be you and taking bad actions in your name. Most importantly, they protect your valuable assets, whether they’re your email communications, your bank accounts funds, or your family’s personal information.

But managing passwords isn’t an easy thing to do. 

You need dozens of passwords, and depending on how many accounts you have, some people have hundreds. Unless you reuse passwords, which, despite how often people do it as their own password strategy, is a digital sin when it comes to protecting your accounts. When one password is shared, stolen, or guessed, the damage can spread immediately. 

But if a password has to be different for every account, then anyone’s password list quickly exceeds their capacity to remember. And if those passwords created in the recommended ‘long to be strong’ way for proper security, then more than one or two really can’t be memorable by design anyway.

In the end, there is one simple conclusion; you can’t manage your own passwords, so you need a password manager to do it for you.

Here’s Why You Need a Password Manager

Password managers solve many of these problems.

  • They create strong and unique passwords – so you don’t have to make them up yourself.
  • They store these strong and unique passwords – so you don’t have to remember them.
  • They make them available anywhere, syncing between your computers, phones, tablets, watches, and any other supported devices.
  • They enter these passwords for you – no need to even type them into the log in screens.

With all of these advantages, why have so many people waited so long to start using a password manager?

We’ve heard a lot of reasons and objections. Let’s walk through them and see if we can convince you that it’s time to strengthen and simplify your life with a Password Manager.

Objection 1: They’re Too Much Work

While password managers definitely require some effort, it should be thought of as a different effort and not a new effort. Here’s what you can expect.

  • Choosing, buying, and installing one will take some time. 
  • To work best with it, you should install it on your computer and your mobile devices.
  • You have to sync and share the accounts across the cloud so all the devices can use it.
  • Browser extensions need to be installed.
  • Adding existing passwords from your current accounts takes some time. (Note: We don’t recommend adding every password all at once, but it’s smart to get a few key accounts setup immediately.)
  • It’s smart to reset and upgrade your passwords as you add them into your new Password Manager. This takes extra time but is highly recommended.
  • There are new habits to learn as the password manager takes over some of the process. This includes:
    • When you log into an app or service.
    • When you need to set a new password.
    • Becoming comfortable with these steps on your phone and on your computer is important and know that those two processes can be very different.

Expect at least 30-45 minutes to get your new password manager setup and running with all the above steps we mentioned. You’ll also experience some extra friction the first few times you actually use it. 

So there is a time cost, some effort, and cognitive load. So why do it?

Because even with this time, energy, and cognitive load, you’re going to come out ahead. Consider the following.

  • How much time do you spend trying to remember passwords? 
  • How often do you have to use the ‘email reset’ system to change passwords? 
  • How often do you have to try and try and try to enter the right password? 
  • How often do you have to call someone else who you think knows your password?
  • How often do you fail to get into the app or service because you just don’t know the password?
  • How much time do you spend helping someone else with their passwords because they don’t have a Password Manager?
  • What would the cost be of someone getting into your email, your bank account, having access to your photos, or otherwise breaching any of your important accounts?

Don’t think about the time and effort spent to use a password manager as a cost, think of it as an investment. 

Like insurance premiums, it’s not fun to pay but it’s really important when you avoid a disaster. But unlike them, you get benefits along the way – it is faster, easier, and stronger than the normal way of using passwords every time you use it. All you have to do is get it setup and learn how to use it.

Objection 2: They’re too complicated

Password managers are reasonably easy to use, once you get past the learning curve. 

The best of them that we like to recommend – such as Dashlane and 1Password- have reasonably friendly interfaces that have improved dramatically over the past few years. 

While not everything is completely intuitive, it’s because they have so many powerful features crammed in. This support for power (or expert) users is part of the “problem”, as is the case with many other applications, in order to add advanced features that many power users want in these apps, there has to be some sacrifice in usability, making it harder to use. While it’s worth it in the end to those who take advantage (even you, if you become an advanced user), it’s a price beginners have to pay.

Most people can quickly learn to perform the core functions in these apps; adding new passwords and applying old ones. These are apps you’ll use day in and day out, so these common actions will become second nature very quickly and you won’t have a chance to forget or get confused.    

If you’ve never used a password manager before, don’t worry, here’s a quick article for you.

Now that we’re past the hard ones, we can get to the misconceptions about password managers.

Objection 3: They require extra steps required

Once you get them setup and into your regular work flow, password managers are simple to use. For many sites, the password manager will fill most required passwords as soon as they’re requested. 

So password entry is automatic and effortless – what could be easier?

The extra work that does exist is the effort that provides all the benefits; using the password manager to create strong passwords, storing new passwords in the password manager (if you didn’t use it to create them), and accessing it in those cases where autofill doesn’t work properly. 

Objection 4: They can’t be trusted

It may seem odd to entrust all your passwords to a single app or company – or to put them all behind a single master password. And yet we – and every single privacy and security expert worth listening to – recommends that you do just that.

Privacy and security experts unanimously recommend password managers because you can trust them, at least the well known and reviewed ones including those we recommend, because they have been designed, built, testing, and proven themselves highly trustworthy. Far moreso than any alternative password management methodology you can come up with on your own. This has been proven with tens of millions of the most privacy conscious users over the course of many years.

The best password managers store your passwords in a highly secure encrypted fashion, most of them offer cloud storage and backups, encourage the use of long and strong passwords in your accounts, and therefore, on the whole, are massively positive contributors to your privacy and security.

You should also know that all passwords (and the other data stored in these apps) is encrypted on your device – the apps or companies behind them cannot ever read or access your passwords. The only way you access them is with your master password and the password managers don’t know that either.

Objection 5: They’re Not Secure

Putting all of your passwords in one place, with a single point of failure (the password to the password manager) does seem like an ironic flaw for a security product. But the reality is that nothing is more secure than using a password manager. 

Using a password manager removes the dozens of risks inherent in living without one. They encourage and enable the use of much stronger passwords on every account, they place them in cryptographically strong storage, and, unlike many companies, they’re designed with security in mind from the ground up to avoid breaches. 

That doesn’t mean they’re perfect. While there have been bugs and minor data breaches with some password managers in the past, but never has there been a wide exposure of passwords due to failures in design or execution by any of the leading password managers. Compared to the risk of using your dog’s name as a password on multiple services, password managers getting breached or leaking passwords are not a risk worth worrying about.

Some may be uncomfortable with the risk that comes with users’ passwords being stored in password managers’ cloud storage. That is a viable concern – although we personally trust the cloud storage systems of our favorite password managers – if you want to store your password vault locally you can do that with 1Password and some others.

Case Closed: Get A Password manager

Your devices, your applications, and your accounts hold the important things in your life. You need to secure them and the only way to do that well is with strong passwords and that requires a password manager.

Like other things in life that would be easier without any concern for security, living without basic security is a terrible idea. While it will take some effort, enjoy the fact that once you set it up and get used to it, it will save you a LOT of time and effort. Take the time to do so and take your time to make sure you’re ready before you become completely dependent upon your new password manager.

Here’s the path we recommend:

  • Download one of our recommended password managers: Dashlane or 1Password
  • Add 3 passwords, whether they’re new or old (if you’re really skeptical, use passwords or accounts that don’t matter as much to you)
  • If they’re new passwords, write them down so you don’t forget.
  • Install the associated browser extension.
  • And get a feel for the logging in experience, making sure you’re taking advantage of the autofill features.

You’ll find that using a password manager is much easier than you think and you’ll probably find yourself wanting to use a password manager for most of your accounts, especially the important ones and the ones you log into most often. It’ll help you stay safe and secure as you use more online accounts and help prevent hackers from getting into your important ones.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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