Ask a Geek: How do I manage passwords?

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Adam Darack is the IT administrator for the town of Edgartown. He will be writing regularly about the technological issues facing Island business owners. Got a question? Send it to onisland@mvtimes.com with the subject line “Dear Geek.”

Dear Geek,

I had some online accounts recently hacked, and think that my passwords were not secure. I have a hard time remembering them, so I’ve kept them pretty simple. Do you have any recommendations for managing my passwords? It was slightly embarrassing when my pictures and video were posted for the world to see.

Thank you,

  1. Hilton

Dear P.,

I hadn’t heard your pictures and video were posted on the Internet; sorry to hear that. Maybe society is wrong about “No press is bad press” after all.

Let’s break this out into two segments — password strategy, and password storage solutions.

First off, I’m guessing your pets’ names, family members’ names, and favorite color are fairly easy for hackers to obtain. Password requirements are often on the receiving end of the kind of venom I just mumbled to a car that stole my parking space at the supermarket, but let’s talk about some reasonable password requirements for you.

“Password1” is not a good password. Better variations of it might include numbers that look similar to letters, and it’s always good to add a capital letter or two and a symbol. Something along the lines of “P4ssw0rD#1” looks fairly similar to “Password1,” but adds some security tweaks. Thinking along those lines will make it a bit more difficult to figure out your password, and will help keep your private things off the Internet.

There are various password storage solutions, but two popular ones are Lastpass and Dashlane. Both offer online storage of your various logins, with a master password to get into everything. Both do a great job giving a nice visual interface, which displays websites and services with access to your login information. Premium services for Lastpass cost $12 a year, while Dashlane costs $40 a year (specific premium features vary by company, but listings of these are clear on each program’s website). Dashlane does offer online and local storage of your passwords, while Lastpass is purely online. Being able to store your passwords on their software installed locally (on your device, not on the Internet) is a nice feature that helps Dashlane distinguish itself from Lastpass, but I have used both and think they are both quite helpful. Both companies have additional business-level offerings that allow for multiple users, along with management of those users, for $1 to $2 per user per month.

If you are opposed to putting any of your password information on the Internet, there is a program called KeePass that can run on a flash drive carried around on your keychain. The user interface isn’t as polished as the others, but it works great and it’s free.

Of course, P., maybe we should have a follow-up discussion about what type of content you might chose to store in various accounts and devices, but I have a word limit in this article, and content-wise, this is a community, family-friendly paper.

Thanks for writing in.

Adam