Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tech Time::: Password Management

Photo: AgileBits.com

In the last few days, I have seen quite a few Tweets and Facebook messages pop up in my feeds regarding forgotten passwords and needing to find a solution to forgetting them all the time. I replied to several of those by recommending an app I found called 1Password which I use to help me work on that problem, because prior to that app, I, too, was guilty of having no control over passwords.  

What made the biggest impact in how I keep track of things before I found this app was a friend of mine losing her husband very suddenly, and having no idea what their banking password was, what his phone passcode was, or what his email password was, in order to try to handle the fallout after losing him.  (And I am glad that Redbook just did a piece on this very subject in one of the last few issues that I "casually" left out for my own husband to read!) 

In light of that tragedy, I immediately started a running email to myself, copied to my husband, with all of my logins for the main sites I use, email, bank, etc., so that if that ever happened to where my husband needed in, he knew how to get in and what to do, but it also benefits my password-resistant brain.  Any time there's a need to change a password, I can send an update to the message.   

However, this running-email has a little security issue, since my husband and I have very common names and some email servers won't always properly recognize the punctuation in an email address which sends our mail to someone else with a very similar address and vice versa, and the lingering concern that this most precious of messages might fall into the wrong hands. That began my quest for an app of some kind to wrangle and maintain a listing of my logins and passwords that was not only well organized, but super locked-down in itself. 

I am a member at iMore.com, and an avid reader of both its blog and forums.  I also regularly read BGR and Engadget, and occasionally will read Gizmodo as well.  All of the aforementioned have reviewed and recommended several password management apps  (most notably 1Password, mSecure, LastPass and oneSafe), but the one that seems to get the most recommendations and the highest praise is 1Password, by AgileBits. I decided to try it, despite what I felt was a pretty high price point for such an app, $17.99 and the most expensive app I'd ever bought, and I am relieved it's been worth every penny so far.  I also bought the Mac variant when they had it on sale for half-price, though I use that less.

Video: AgileBits.com

After using 1Password for a little while now, I absolutely love the iOS variant. I have it set to require the master password at login (you have to remember this one!) and any time I go out of the app I have to enter a pin code I set (remember this one, too!) to unlock it again.  I feel pretty secure that my data is safely locked up in there because of the semi-two-step-authorization, and even if another iPhone gets stolen from my purse at dinner with my best girls and I am sent running like a lunatic through the Mall of America at 8:35pm on a Saturday night, the thief can't get into this app and cause any issues with my logins.  

One you're in, you can set up each account or login one by one for later use, choosing from long list of categories.  If, as you're going along, you decide you want a super unique password beyond what you presently use and assume is unique enough (newsflash: it probably isn't!), 1Password will also will do a password generation and then save it for you. That way you can reference it for when you need it later, or if you choose to let it autofill when you surf from the app into Safari/browser of your choice, it will do the work for you.   The app will also sync with Dropbox and iCloud to double backup an encrypted form of your saved data.  I think the only "con" I have is that when I am inputting a login that I have to really wait for it to register in the box, before I leave that screen or I end up having to re-enter it before it's saved.  That gets annoying since sometimes that happens repeatedly.

Photos: Screenshots of my iPhone, taken and arranged by me

Despite the app being set up for the ability to handle credit cards, etc., I have not input any of my credit card data, in part because I don't do a lot of shopping through my phone, and don't see a personal need for that. I did, however, input my logins and passwords for the accounts I felt I needed to save, like email and social media, email settings, insurance cards, and very limited banking information.  Having all of those saved, to me, is worth the price of admission.   

I would say that I am less enamored with the MacOS variant, in part, because it isn't set up quite the same way, and I hate that it asks me every time I go to a site that I regularly go to if I want to save this password, even though its the same each time and it seems to not remember or recognize that.  I also haven't been able to get the two apps (iOS to MacOS) to sync within each other, but right now I am ok with that, because I want the logins I input by hand that I have in my phone to stay as they are, so I haven't contacted the company for assistance.   

For more information on the app's features, you can check out the AgileBits website linked above.  If you use 1Password, or any similar app, I'd love to hear your thoughts!!!  And stay tuned for next week's Tech Time, as I will be talking a little more about Dropbox.

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