Thirty-four! That is the number of passwords my computer has saved for various websites. If I was going to “do the right thing” I would create a very difficult-to-guess password for each site, change it every few months and never write it down.
Unfortunately, I have trouble remembering my phone number; how could I ever remember thirty-four separate passwords? Here comes password management software to the rescue! This software will remember and automatically fill in passwords for websites. But is this software safe?
Let me start by saying some password management software comes with spyware and isn’t safe. For a list of password management software that won’t spy on you, visit this site: http://lifehacker.com/5042616/five-best-password-managers.
(For Mac users, I use the Keychain utility that is included with the OS.)
A password manager can be very dangerous if someone gets physical possession of your computer. If your computer isn’t password protected, you’ve left the proverbial key in the lock for anyone with malevolent intent.
If you travel a lot, take extra care to ensure your laptop is secure, in order to make it difficult for someone to access your stored passwords. Get some tips for laptop security here: http://labmice.techtarget.com/articles/laptopsecurity.htm
I would also recommend that you don’t store every password in your password manager. I differentiate between sites where little damage is done if someone gets my password (newspapers) and sites where someone could do a lot of damage (bank accounts). I don’t use the same password for logging into the newspaper website that I do for bank accounts. I also don’t keep the high-risk passwords in my password manager.
A benefit of password managers is that they allow you to create hard-to-guess passwords and then forget about them. Additionally, because most of my passwords are saved, I only have to remember a few passwords for those sites that I need to keep secure.