Password management is a set of principles and processes to be followed online in order to manage and store passwords securely and effectively and prevent unauthorized access as much as possible.
People use password managers to handle their passwords due to the more extensive security and comfort that they provide.
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Why Is Password Management Important?
Any online service, paid or otherwise, requires users to log in with a username and password combination. Passwords prevent unauthorized access and authenticate that the person logging in is the original user.
However, password management is different now than it was a few decades ago. Back then, there were very limited online activities to choose from, and online financial transactions were sporadic. Naturally, a person required only a few passwords to remember because there weren’t many accounts in need of protection.
Nowadays, the situation is entirely different, and people use around thirty different applications per month, most of them hidden behind a password. With that, the use of strong passwords became mandatory because weak and reused passwords may lead to stolen online accounts and online identity, or even financial losses.
What Are the Dangers of Bad Password Management?
The dangers of bad password management can vary from minimal to extremely dangerous. For example, a sophisticated hack into a Florida water treatment plant exploited the same shared password for TeamViewer. Using weak passwords and sharing them can put the entire business cybersecurity structure at risk and cause tremendous damages.
On the other hand, casual Internet users can also suffer financial or other damages due to wrong password management practices. It can be a stolen streaming service account, like in the case of the Disney+ release.
Disney+ suffered from a severe Credential Stuffing attack. This is a simple attack that relies on data leaks and leaked username-password combinations. Cybercriminal obtains a combo list of usernames and passwords and tries the same combination on a different service. If the same credentials were used and no other additional authentication is enabled, then the account is taken over and most often sold on online black markets.
How Do Password Managers Solve the Issue?
A password manager is software that allows storing multiple, complex, and unique passwords in a secured location. This way, users do not have to remember each password by heart, which is impossible considering the number of online services an average Internet user has.
Username and password combinations are encrypted and stored in a vault. In most cases, the vault is either kept locally or stored on a cloud. Both solutions have advantages and disadvantages.
The local storage solution is typically considered a safer one because an encrypted vault can be accessed only by having access to its device. However, cross-platform compatibility is not an option in this solution, and with the emergence of smartphones, it’s a significant setback.
Cloud storage solution solves this because an encrypted vault can be downloaded into any device that can prove it’s an authentic user. There’s a risk of a password manager experiencing a data leak from the cybersecurity point of view and leaking encrypted vaults from the Cloud.
However, some cybersecurity specialists consider this a baseless statement since if the vaults are encrypted using up-to-date encryption algorithms, breaking them with current technology is nearly impossible. Furthermore, high-quality password managers have zero-knowledge architecture, which means that the vault is accessible only to the user and nobody else – not even password manager developers. This prevents unauthorized access from inside a company and even further lowers the risk of a data leak.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using a Password Manager?
Cybersecurity specialists usually recommend using password managers, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
First of all, most fully-developed password managers are a paid service, so expect to sign up for a subscription if you want top-notch protection.
Second, an encrypted vault is unlocked with a master password. And if a password manager runs zero-knowledge architecture, they don’t know the master password. If the master password is lost, no one can restore access to the vault, and passwords may be lost forever. It’s of utmost importance to remember your master password and even have it written in a safe place, accessible only to the user.
What to Look for in a Password Manager
Almost all password managers have the same features so you may need to look at add-ons to choose the best one. These features include:
- Ability to save and fill in user credentials not just on websites but desktop apps as well
- Automated password change prompts
- A means to secure passwords saved on web browsers
- Enable advanced permission settings for password sharing
- A digital legacy provision or a means to enable account inheritors to open your accounts in case of emergency or death
- Built-in warning system when you’re visiting an unsecured website
- Instant access to a virtual private network (VPN) as an additional layer of protection
- Secure storage for your passwords