Passwords

This shouldn’t have to be said, but there are still some who think they are the only ones struggling with passwords. Let me tell you that you are definitely not alone.

There’s not much that hasn’t been said about passwords. We all know that they should be unique and not recycled, sufficiently long and complex, and changed on a regular basis. But most of us are still struggling to balance those password attributes with the biggest one: recallable.

By recallable, I mean that you can recall it without resorting to a handwritten list or an unencrypted electronic list, which are both strongly frowned-upon.

I would like to believe that we are on the verge of a password-free world where all your devices and services recognize you by face, voice, fingerprint, retina, etc., instead of requiring you to memorize strings of characters. Smartphones have recently made great strides with their fingerprint readers, but that has, so far, failed to progress to apps and services on the smartphones, or to most tablets and personal computers.

Until that day comes, you might consider using a password manager: an app that stores your usernames and passwords in an encrypted form, unlockable by fingerprint or strong password. Most have a good level of encryption, meaning there are no alternative methods of decrypting your list. Some have extra features that make it easy to display or even enter your credentials into apps/sites for you, and some can maintain the same list on all of your devices.

In closing, I will mention a couple of password managers that I have encountered. There are several tools with the unimaginative name “Password Safe”, but only one that was originally designed by Bruce Schneier. Its logo is easily recognizable with its red triangles and diamond, and its home is pwsafe.org. This tool is truly multi-platform (it is available for Windows, OS X, Android, iOS, and Linux), and there are ways to synchronize your database between your devices. The second one is a relative newcomer: Intel’s “True Key” (truekey.com) has many of the same features as Password Safe, but in a more refined form. There is, however a price for this refinement … you can store the first 15 passwords for free, but beyond that, it will cost you $19.99/year.

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