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Best tools for protecting passwords

David Strom | Sept. 4, 2013
Passwords are a security weak link, but these products help shield passwords from attackers

The software sets up a local password vault and then synchronizes the vault using a variety of cloud-based external services, such as Dropbox or iCloud. We had issues getting this synchronization to work initially because the instructions are somewhat ambiguous. But once this is setup it works as intended. When you bring up the app either on your desktop, in your mobile smartphone, or the browser plug-in — you are asked for your master vault password to unlock it. You can then add new services or recall particular passwords or information from the vault.

One of the biggest advantages with 1Password is that it has an extensive collection of different kinds of things that it can protect inside its vault, including credit card numbers, text notes, and software license information along with the usual login identities. Everything placed in the vault can be accessed on every other platform, which is very convenient. You can also add file attachments to each login record, this could be useful to include copies of your emails or pictures of your contract signatures as handy references.

There are a number of additional features for the iOS version, such as sending you to a secure browser session where you can clear any Web-based data for additional security. There is also a demo mode where you can show your associates how the software works without revealing any actual passwords, since mobile users like to share their apps more often. Eventually, these features will find their way into the desktop and browser versions.

The software also has a number of protective options that keep you from tripping your own mistakes on its preferences screen. This includes the ability to clear the clipboard and lock the vault on exiting the app or when the desktop screen saver is active. On the desktop preferences, you can see at a glance which browser plug-ins you have installed and which isn't protected, that is a handy reference.

All 1Password versions include a strong password generator, where you can set up a random password. You can adjust the slider control for particular length and complexity (the highest grade of password beyond Excellent is Fantastic). On some of its generator tools, you can also choose whether the password is pronounceable, uses non-ambiguous characters, and allows for repeating characters. It would be nice for Agilebits to update its versions to offer consistent features across the browser, desktop and mobile versions.

1Password doesn't support as many smartphones as LastPass, and its synchronization could use some attention, but otherwise is a fine tool for individual password use. Pricing is also simple: each copy sells for a $50 one-time fee.


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