Yes, You Need a Password Manager
The library worker at the help desk cannot log you into your email
In my day-to-day life working in a public library, I find that I help at least someone, if not multiple people, every day with a password issue. Frequently it’s older library patrons, but not always. Sometimes they set up their email long ago and their password is remembered on their home computer, or they set up their email on their smartphone and don’t believe me when I say they need a password to access it elsewhere. But so we’re clear, the good people working the desk at your local public library have no idea what any of your passwords are.
There has been recent discussion about how passwords aren’t really a very good security measure. They are easily forgotten, there are many to keep track of, and we’re all reusing one or two passwords for a lot of different places. This opens us up to hacker attacks. My library’s IT department encourages people to use “passphrases” for our work logins — a string of words that we can remember more easily but is harder for a hacker to hack. That’s a good option for a few things, but that can end up being a lot of passphrases to remember.
I appreciate the folks I see who have a ratty notebook or even a small pad of paper full to the gills with all the passwords to everything in their life — email, banking, shopping, etc. It’s even better when they recognize they changed the password but didn’t necessarily cross it out or erase it from their notebook. No, they just wrote down another password for the website in a different part of the notebook. In a way, it’s a fairly secure system being as confusing as it is. But it also takes a lot of time and brainpower to remember where the current password is — or decipher the chicken scrawl that was used to write it down.
My solution to this for years has been a password manager. A password manager is an app that saves all your passwords for you, even auto-filling them in on websites, and helps you create strong passwords, each unique and hard to hack. I’ve been grateful for it remembering the logins for websites I hadn’t visited in years — it saves so much time to have those passwords quickly inserted so you can go on with your task at hand.
There are many different ones to use. Some are free and built into the ecosystem you’re using, like iCloud Keychain, Samsung Pass, or the one with your Chrome browser, and others may cost a subscription fee but are then available across all the platforms you use. Personally, I use LastPass, and I know others say Dashlane and 1Password are also great products. For those, you only need to remember your ONE master password to access all the passwords you DON’T need to remember.
Ultimately you need a vault that you can input all your passwords to, that will generate new and stronger passwords for you, and that will allow you to access all the things you need when you need them. My co-workers laugh when I email them login information for a website they need to access and the password is a long string of nonsense. But hey, my accounts don’t get hacked. And they’re the ones asking me for the passwords since I have them at my fingertips.
So the next time you go to the public library to “print one thing” that means you need to get into your email account for the document… have your password manager app be the one to help you in to your email and not the library worker.