Hands up if you use the same password at more than one website. Now keep your hand up if all your passwords are more than 12 characters, contain a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and characters. Where did everyone go?!
Until recently I used two or three passwords for pretty much everything, and a special (moderately secure) password for important services like banking, email, Dropbox. My reasoning was that I didn’t really care if someone hacked into my FourSquare or GetGlue accounts. The convenience of having one or two passwords outweighed the benefits of better security in my mind.
However, over the few past two years I’ve seen (and been the victim of) more and more security breaches at various online services. No website seems to be safe from high tech criminal masterminds, be it Twitter, Evernote, Yahoo, LinkedIn or Last.fm. Alongside this, there was the now infamous Matt Honan episode where his email and Twitter accounts were hacked and his MacBook, iPhone and iPad remotely wiped.
This one article directly led me to start using Google’s quite brilliant two factor authentication for my Gmail. If you don’t already use it, I’d highly recommend giving it a try. If you’re not going to invest the time in creating highly secure passwords, two factor authentication should at least offer some protection. Your email may be your single most important online account, being as it’s usually the service through which all other account passwords can be reset.
But as my paranoia level has steadily increased, I’ve finally upped the ante and shelled out on a proper password manager: 1Password. As its name implies, 1Password lets you hide all your login details behind a single master password. It even generates these (ultra-secure) passwords for you, allowing you to customise length, use of numbers and special characters.
Although it initially took a fair amount of effort, I now have a different, complex password for every online service that I use. As you mostly only need to log in to apps on installation the ongoing hassle is minimal and comfortably outweighed by the security benefits. For logging into websites, you can use 1Password’s built in browser window to surf the web and log in to websites at the tap of a button. You can also just copy and paste passwords as and when required.
You can also use 1Password to securely store other information such as credit card details, addresses or passport numbers. Again, this can then be entered into websites at the tap of a button. Shopping has never been so easy, or secure.
1Password is more expensive than your usual 99p app at £12.99 for the iOS version. However it really is a question of what value you place on your online security. Articles like this and this have convinced me that £13 is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that 1Password gives me. The Android app is free, but is only a reader from which you can copy your passwords to paste into log in screens.
Oh and before you get excited, all the screenshots for this article are taken from 1Password’s (quite brilliant) demo mode, just in case you had any ideas!