I don’t know how I did it before.
We all have dozens and dozens of user names and passwords for the various sites, apps, and services we use online. And most of them unlock private, confidential information often with things like credit card numbers and social security numbers inside.
Which is why I can’t believe I took the whole thing so lightly until now.
About four or five months ago a trusted source recommended I try out 1Password, and I can’t imagine not using it now.
What was I doing before? The answer, of course, is using the same password or a close iteration of it for everything. That made me pretty vulnerable.
But 1Password has fixed my problems. As far as I’m concerned, nobody should be navigating the web without an app like this. There are many other similar options, but 1Password is simply the one I chose to go with and can personally endorse.
The concept behind 1Password is that you only need to remember one login for everything. The rest is gravy. Once you’re into the app’s ecosystem, every user name and password is saved and easy to find. You can create a completely random password for each service, website, or app you use and 1Password will automatically log you in.
There’s a bit of a learning curve, but once you get the hang of it and get in the habit of using it, the app will change your digital life.
Here are the basics:
When you first download the app from the Mac App Store you have to create an account, which you can eventually link with the online file storage service Dropbox so you can sync data between all the devices you use. This is also when you choose that one password to rule all passwords. It’s all you need to unlock your confidential world on both desktop and mobile. So make it good, and don’t forget it.
That will bring you into a dashboard where all your login information is stored. Here you can view and manage all the current user names and passwords you’ve saved. The paid version of the app lets you store other stuff like bank account information, credit cards, IDs, etc.
But how do you create these and easily manage them? The secret is in a browser extension. I use Google Chrome, but the app also provides extensions for Safari, Firefox, and Opera.
Every time you’re on a website where you need to input login information, you click this handy extension and tell it to fill in the information for you. The extension knows what site you’re on and automatically fills in the blank fields with your login information.
The extension is a hub for your whole password experience. In the drop down that opens, you can copy and paste passwords, view login information, and make complicated and hard-to-guess new passwords for all the sites you use.
Once you have the app generate these passwords for you, you can just use the extension to fill them in from now on. No need to remember any crazy passwords, just the one that gets you into the 1Password app.
It’s also great on mobile devices. You can even replace that one password with your fingerprint if your device supports it.
Once you’re in the mobile app, you get that same list of logins as on the desktop app, and you can copy and paste from there.
It is a little tedious on mobile because you have to go into the app, copy a password, then go back to the app you and paste the password in. Luckily, 1Password is a growing brand and many apps are beginning to build integration. Here’s a list of who’s on board so far.
If you have an iPhone and use the Safari browser, you can set up 1Password to come up in the “share” screen so you can input login information on mobile websites.
You do have to make the 1Password icon show up there easily enough, though. To do that, on the share screen above press “More” (swipe over to it in the second bar after “Copy”). Then you’ll see a screen below where you’ll get the option to toggle 1Password on and then move it up or down the list order:
I can’t recommend this enough. I really don’t know how people get by with any semblance of safety and privacy without an app like this.
And even if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t care about privacy and security, this will eliminate the guesswork. There’s nothing more annoying than going to a site and having to go through the “forgot password” process. With password managers, this is all taken care of for you.
These managers cost various amounts of money. After a trial period, for example, 1Password will cost $US48.99 for a Mac and Windows bundle or $US34.99 for just Mac. And the mobile app is a separate price altogether. It’s free to download the basic app and another $US9.99 for the pro bundle which unlocks other features like desktop and Apple Watch integration.
So far, I haven’t paid anything and have been just fine. The app doesn’t lock you out of the basic features after the trial period. But I’m considering paying for it soon so I can store my credit card and bank account information.
Whichever way you decide to go, I highly recommend a password manager for everyone out there. I can’t imagine getting around the web day-to-day without it.
It’s worth mentioning here that another popular password manager called LastPass admitted it was hacked on June 15. That has led some to debate the efficacy of having just a single password to rule them all.
But as our online security reporter Cale Guthrie Weissman notes, “It’s important to note that this breach does not mean that hackers have full access to the passwords of every LastPass user. What it does mean, however, is that if users use a weak master password or have used the same password for another website, there’s a likelihood that hackers could gain access.”
So the bottom line to keeping safe: If you use a password manager make that one important password super strong.