So how do you save your passwords? On a sheet of paper? In your head? In your browser? Or in a password safe? Given the risks of losing the sheet of paper, or forgetting memorized passwords, or someone else accessing your browser, the password safe is probably the best choice. We all know how important it is to have long passwords which are a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and symbols so I won’t go into that here. But we must have a secure way of storing them.
When Lee Mathews of Download Squad wrote a post on LastPass back in August last year, I decided to give it a try. I’ve always found him to give excellent software recommendations on Download Squad. I was using KeePass at the time, another password manager which was being warmly recommended on tech blogs and tech podcasts. It’s a great password safe, but the problem is that to get passwords from KeePass to your browser, you have to launch the program, enter your password then copy and paste the stored password to wherever you need it – which all takes time. There is a plugin for KeePass called KeeForm which is designed to open and scan a website for input fields and fill them accordingly with a user name and password but it only works with Internet Explorer. I use Firefox so I decided to try LastPass. I found it really easy to install and liked the way everything was explained during installation.
LastPass keeps all your web logins securely synchronized across multiple computers. It stores your passwords in encrypted form on your PC, and there is a Firefox browser extension and Internet Explorer add-on for LastPass which recognises and fills password boxes from your encrypted password data. Not only this, but it will also fill online forms much like RoboForm.
Another feature I like is that it will store multiple usernames and passwords for a site. For example, I have personal and business usernames and passwords for Delicious. When I go to log in to Delicious, the Firefox LastPass extension gives a drop-down set of buttons one of which is AutoLogin. Clicking on this allows me to choose which of my two Delicious accounts I log in to. The buttons appear below the Firefox tabs near the top right corner of the browser window.
LastPass also syncs passwords over the net, so all your saved passwords on your work computer, for example, will always be synced to your home computer. It’s also cross-platform, so you can sync your password data to Windows, Mac, and Linux PCs. There’s also a portable version of LastPass called LastPass Pocket so you can keep your encrypted passwords and usernames on a thumbdrive. Pocket is designed to provide you with access to your passwords on any computer.
There’s actually a lot more to LastPass than I can go into here so please check out their website for all the details. Or have a look at their FAQ. The big question with all these password managers is: Are my passwords safe or can anyone else access them? Many of the security questions have actually been addressed by LastPass in the comments below a LifeHacker feature on the program in August last year and also on their website here. They assure us that the passwords are only stored on your PC. They’re encrypted locally on your PC and the result of that encryption is uploaded to LastPass. LastPass never has a way to decrypt your data so it’s important to remember just one password – your LastPass password!
So if you’re storing passwords on paper, in your browser or in your head, give LastPass a try. I’ve been using it since last September without problems. In fact, I’ve just checked though my list of essential software on my About page and LastPass would rate as my best find of 2008. Oh, and it’s free.
Added on 15th January:
Further reading: Securely Synchronize all your Browser Passwords with LastPass
Added on 20th January:
Further reading: LastPass now handles logins and form filling in any browser