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Friday, September 17, 2010

Three Great Password Management Systems to Keep Hackers on the Run

A good friend of mine told me this week he manages more than 200 separate password-protected online accounts.  At first I thought he was exaggerating, but after further discussion with him, I realized it's fairly easy for any of us to get close to that number.

Consider all of your password protected media sites (free and paid), banking and brokerage accounts, personal and professional email accounts, retails sites, project management sites, social media channels, etc.  You can see how someone who goes online only out of necessity, and not desire like many of us, can quickly accumulate a significant number of password protected online sites without really trying.

And as the hackers out there know, people generally use the same one or two easy-to-decode passwords (like their first name, or qwerty or letmein) for all of their accounts. It keeps things simple.  Unfortunately, it also makes the hacker's job that much easier.  All a hacker has to do is to figure out one of these passwords and suddenly he/she has access to a large number of your accounts and to potentially critical personal information.

What now?

Well, as I learned earlier this week, after you get hacked is not the time to be looking for the additional security you need to guard against getting hacked in the first place.

Still, better late than never.

It's like trying to buy a snow blower in a blizzard, a generator in a power failure, sandals in July.  Your best bet, and for the best deals, is to purchase these things before you need them.

And in the case of added security for your protected online sites, many of the software products that fortify your electronic fortress are free, up to a certain point.  You still need a comprehensive security suite running on your computer and you may also want to invest in an email security-specific product as well.

But in addition, and on the heels of my Gmail account betting hacked earlier this week, I've become a big proponent of password management systems as an added layer of steel between you and the hacker.  My friend with the 200 password protected online accounts became a proponent some years ago when his Gmail account was hacked. And now, I too am convinced. You should be too.

There are a lot of great products out there that more or less do the same thing, but here are three password management solutions I researched and want to share with you.  We'll never put the hackers completely out of business, but we can make their job as hard as possible:

KeePass:  This is a free open source password manager.  They talk about themselves this way:  You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file.  So you only have to remember one single master password or select the key file to unlock the whole database.  

RoboForm.  Lots of awards and great reviews from leading trade pubs like PC Magazine, Bloomberg and Morningstar.  RoboForm says on its website:  Security is our highest priority.  RoboForm Password Manager has gone through multiple security reviews and is used by Fortune 500 companies and the government. 

Passpack.  This is the solution my friend uses.  Here's how Passpack talk about themselves:  We believe access to data privacy applications should be an unalienable right. We're working hard to make that a reality.

The truth is, it doesn't matter too much which one you pick.  As long as you pick one.

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