Why I need a password manager

Why I need a password manager

By 4 minute read

Most of my passwords are one-hit wonders; I make one, use it once and then forget it. Fortunately, there are digital solutions that can help, writes Cormac Mac Ruairi.

The last straw was when I went to see my wife perform in a community theater. The audience had to show their vaccination status in the official 'Corona app' before being allowed inside. I had forgotten to update my status. No problem, I thought, the miracle of mobile would allow me to fix the problem straight away.

My confidence began to ebb when I discovered I had to first log into the official government app. I could not remember the password. After numerous futile attempts over the next 15 minutes, I only managed to lock the app. Then, I remembered the login to the website version was saved on my phone. I managed to update my vaccination status and take my seat just as the actors were coming on stage. 

Generally, my login struggles end with me resetting the passwords. Until the next time I try to use a particular app or website and I have to use the reset option once more. 

On returning from a relaxing holiday this summer, I spent the first 20 minutes fighting a losing battle with my work laptop back before talking to tech support. I simply couldn't remember my password to log into the company network. My embarrassment was tempered by the fact that I am far from unique. IT consultancy and research group Gartner has estimated that 20-50% of all help desk calls relate to password resets, which can take 20 minutes to 1.5 hours to resolve. Don't believe it? Read more about how employees are wasting 30% of their time.

I used to write my passwords in a notebook until I threw the full notebook with all my passwords out with the rest of my paper recycling. 

The one-password 'solution'

I have also tried using an identical or broadly similar passwords for all my online services. I don't do this anymore because if hackers get access to one password, they will likely be able to get into all of my services. Using one password is like leaving the front door of your home wide open when you go on holiday.

We have a lot of 'digital homes' to protect. Most of us are using more services than before the pandemic, and we need to protect each one. According to freewill.com, the average person under 70 has more than 160 digital accounts and services. Your loved ones will also need access to many that are linked to banking, investment and insurance should you pass away. That's the eventuality that Freewill is chiefly concerned about and that's why the article refers to digital vaults.

I will write about my own experiences with digital vaults and estate planning soon. Currently, I am more concentrated on being able to access my financial platforms myself in my day-to-day life. I need a digital password manager.

What is a password manager?

A password manager is software that allows you to create, store and manage passwords in encrypted form. Depending on the password manager, you may be able to use it across all your digital devices and even to share access with a partner or family member. Click here to find out more about some of the leading solutions available. 

Are password managers safe? 

Most security experts agree that it is safer to use a password manager than not to. There are risks, however. You have to remember the master password to the manager and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. Security is further enhanced by multi-factor authentication or biometric recognition options. But it would be foolish to assume that the systems are invulnerable to attack. 

Don't just store. Manage.

The functionality can vary between various password managers and whether you chose a free or subscription account. An option I really like is to generate passwords with randomized digits and characters that are very difficult to break. This allows you to update passwords for individual apps and services regularly, making then more secure. Some password managers will also tell you if an existing password is weak or strong.

Another option, again depending on your account level, is to have access to the password manager across a range of digital devices. This will help me get around the problem of having a password to a service or app saved on my phone but not my tablet.

Like many other digital services, password mangers may include facial recognition or a thumb print as part of the login process. I use my thumb print whenever I can as I can hardly lose that, I hope.

Nevertheless, passwords remain necessary for many of the digital services and apps we all rely on a daily basis. My hope is that using a password manager will mean I really only need to remember one password – the one that opens my password manager. Surely, I must be able to memorize one password?

Cormac Mac Ruairi

About Cormac Mac Ruairi

As Digital Content Manager at Aegon, I enjoy turning complex subjects into relatable, clear and lively stories.