These apps will help make your online passwords less terrible

Apps and services to make your online passwords harder to crack

Security group SplashData recently revealed the 25 most commonly used passwords of 2015, and they’re all terrible.

By

‘terrible,’ of course, we mean that they’re laughably simplistic and

easy to crack. The number one spot is occupied by ‘123456’ for example,

while number two is – you guessed it – ‘password.’

Of course, we

all have multiple passwords to remember, which (alongside simple

laziness) is what leads to such sloppy decision making. There must be a

better way to make strong passwords without risking locking yourself out

of your chosen services.

Fortunately, a number of dedicated apps

and web browser tools are providing such a service. Here’s the lowdown

on some of the ways to make better passwords.

Basic guidelines

First

up, some tips on basic password good practice from Microsoft’s Windows

support page. According to the big M, you should ensure that your

password is:

  • At least eight characters long
  • Does not contain user name, real name, or company name
  • Does not contain a complete word
  • Is significantly different from previous passwords
  • Contains at least one uppercase letter, lowercase letter, number, and symbol

Of

course, that only helps with security. It doesn’t help with the whole

memorisation thing. For that, you’ll need to turn to one of the many

password tools out there.

The best place to start is with your chosen web browser.

Related: Your phone is wrecking your sleep, here’s how to stop it

Password

Google Chrome

The

world’s most popular web browser has a built in password manager called

Smart Lock for Passwords. This will remember your passwords for the

sites and services you access through it, and autofill them when you

sign in.

Ensure you’re signed in to Chrome and set up your

password on whatever service you’re using. Chrome will automatically ask

you if you want to save the password.

The good thing about this

is that if you use an Android or iOS device with Chrome, this password

memorisation will also sync to your device (and vice-versa).

Another

thing you might find Chrome doing in this situation is suggesting an

auto-generated password for you. These are random assortments of letters

that are pretty much impossible to guess. Of course, they’re also very

hard to memorise, but Chrome has you covered on that count.

Related: Chromecast tips and tricks

Safari

Apple Safari

If

you’re using a Mac or iOS device, then there’s a fair chance you’re

using Apple’s own Safari web browser. Fortunately, this too has an

integrated password management tool called iCloud KeyChain.

Provided

you’re using a device that runs on iOS 7.0.3 or later or OS X Mavericks

v10.9 or later, you’re good to go. If you didn’t opt to set KeyChain up

when upgrading to one of these, then you can do so by going to  Apple

menu > System Preferences > iCloud in OS X or Settings > iCloud

in iOS.

Once activated, on many occasions where you come to

filling in a password on a website, KeyChain will offer to save the

password you choose. It will also share these across to your other OS X

and iOS devices, should you approve it.

Like Chrome, Safari will

also provide and store a randomised suggestion that will prove all but

impossible to crack, should you accept it.

Aside from these two

leading web browsers, there are some great apps that can help you go

even deeper and more secure with password management.

Related: El Capitan tips and tricks

1Password

1Password

1Password

is a popular password manager with apps for Windows, OS X, Android, and

iOS, and plugins for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Opera. It’s often

praised for its sharp, intuitive UI.

Like the aforementioned

browser tools, 1Password remembers all your passwords securely, as well

as other sensitive personal information like bank account details. It

can also generate strong random passwords for you, should wish.

1Password also enables you to sync your auto-remembered passwords across to your mobile devices through dedicated apps.

Everything

in your ‘1Password vault’ is protected with a single master password,

so you’ll need to remember one password (hence the name) at least. But

it’s worth the effort – your vault of private details is protected by

AES 256-bit encryption.

The benefit of using 1Password, or any

other top third party password management service, of course, is that it

will work across browsers and systems – handy if you have a Mac at home

and a Windows system at work (or vice-versa).

It should also be

noted that with 1Password, your vault of data is stored locally on your

devices rather than in the cloud, unless you specifically specify that

you want to sync to the cloud (via Dropbox or iCloud) in this way.

Another

neat feature is that 1Password will actively search through your

passwords and point out where you have weaknesses – whether through a

poor password choice or a service that was recently breached.

1Password

isn’t as fully featured as the services to follow, but it works out

cheaper over several years. It costs £18.99 for the Mac app and £7.99 if

you want all of the features in the iOS app, but those are one-off fees

rather than the ongoing yearly subscription fees that the other

services charge you.

Related: Best Android Apps

LastPass

LastPass

LastPass

is the daddy of password managers. It was one of the first really good

examples to arrive on the scene, and so has built up a solid user base.

Because

of that, its list of supported platforms is even stronger than

1Password. It includes Windows, OS X, and Linux on the desktop OS front,

and iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Blackberry on the smartphone OS

front. It also offers plug-in support for Internet Explorer as well as

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.

Once again, it remembers your

passwords for you and locks them behind a secure digital wall and a

single password. That one password uses Google Authenticator for

two-step authentication, with a number of alternatives also supported,

and you can also employ your fingerprint if you have a TouchID-equipped

iOS device.

Like 1Password, it also points out weak passwords and

makes it easier and safer to change them. In fact, LastPass can even be

set to automatically change your password if it detects that a

particular service has been hacked. Now that’s peace of mind.

Interestingly,

LastPass also supports the use of physical devices such as USB sticks

and YubiKeys for password authentication, which can be very useful in

certain situations.

Unlike 1Password, you’ll need to pay a

subscription fee to get the full LastPass experience, including access

to the mobile apps. This will set you back $12 (£8.45) per year.

Dashlane

Dashlane

Dashlane

doesn’t have quite the level of support of LastPass, with just Android,

iOS, Windows, and Mac on the list. But it has its own appeal.

While

it offers a similar service of remembering and generating new web

passwords (the latter can be set to produce pronounceable words if you

like), Dashlane does so through an incredibly attractive and intuitive

UI.

It’s also free when used on a single device, but you’ll need

to pay a pretty hefty $39.99 for the cross-platform syncing premium

version.

Like LastPass, Dashlane uses Google Authenticator for

two-factor authentication, and you can swap in Duo Mobile or Twilio

Authy if you prefer. Also like LastPass, it allows for fingerprint

authentication if you have a recent iPhone or iPad with the TouchID home

button.

Another feature that both Dashlane and LastPass share is

the ability to import your saved passwords from the aforementioned web

browser systems, and then delete them from those browsers and deactivate

future saves.

It might sound a little morbid, but Dashlane is

also one of the password managers that features an Emergency Contacts

feature. If anything fatal should happen to you, it can be set to

provide access to specific passwords and personal details to

pre-selected parties (such as a spouse or family member).

There

are many other non-password-related LastPass features that we won’t

discuss here. Suffice to say if you want a comprehensive tool for making

your online activities both safer and easier, it’s right up there with

LastPass on the feature count.

What’s your password manager of choice? Let us know in the comment section below