In today’s digital world, a password manager is considered an essential tool for both personal and business use.
An individual with an active digital life could easily have dozens of accounts they use daily that need to be password protected, and since any remotely digitally savvy person will know the risk involved in reusing passwords over multiple accounts, and of failing to make those various passwords unique and difficult to guess, they end up juggling large numbers of unique passwords that they have no hope of remembering.
Taking this into consideration—alongside the knowledge that a single breach can have far-reaching and expensive consequences for individuals and businesses alike—the popularity of password managers today is understandable. The prevalence of credential-related breaches (with 61% of all beaches involving credentials) in recent years and the ever-evolving nature of cyber threats, indicate that it is good practice to ensure all your passwords are stored securely and to minimize the risk of human error by removing the burden on employees to remember dozens of work-related passwords.
A dedicated password manager supports users in securing their online accounts with the best passwords, and ensures that all data stored in the encrypted database is secured against a possible data breach.
What Is A Password Manager?
A password manager is essentially a system that allows you to store all the passwords to your various user accounts in one convenient and secure location. That location is a digital password vault, which requires a master password—and often additional authentication—to access.
A password manager supports good password hygiene by enabling users to use unique and complex passwords for all their accounts, negating the risks associated with using a weak password or reused passwords without overburdening individuals with the task of memorizing dozens of unique saved passwords. While all password managers (even free password managers) provide this key service, they are not all built the same; some are cloud-based, some are locally stored, and some are web-based password managers with built-in browser extensions.
Their capabilities can also differ, with some password managers offering additional features such as a password generator that creates strong, unique passwords with one click, or dark web monitoring that alerts users if have any compromised passwords in a known breach.
Some key features offered by the top password management software on the market include:
- Compatibility across multiple devices
- Single sign-on capability
- Multi-factor authentication for vault access
- Unlimited passwords across multiple devices
- High-grade encryption
- Automatically fill in stored passwords
- A free version that includes the password manager basics
Why Is Password Management Important?
In a survey conducted by NordPass, 7 out of 10 US respondents claimed to have more than ten password-protected accounts, with 2 out of ten claiming to have more than fifty. That’s simply too many passwords to manage without support.
Choosing a password manager essentially comes down to your threat model and unique needs. Here are a few reasons every business should include a password manager in their security toolkit.
Create Stronger Passwords
For a lot of people, your employees included, crafting complex passwords for every account they have is just not going to happen. Passwords are easy to forget as it is and, if we increase the length and complexity of each and every one, that just adds to the struggle of keeping our many passwords straight.
With the password cracking software available today, the strength of our passwords matters more than ever. Individuals may use passwords of varying strength to secure their various accounts depending on how valuable or targeted they believe those accounts may be, and if businesses wish to demand the extra effort of strong, complex and unique passwords for every application, they should be supplying employees with the tools to facilitate this—like a password manager.
Stop Password Reuse
Considering the sheer volume of passwords employees are juggling in their personal and professional lives, it should come as no surprise many choose to reuse passwords. And even those who make an effort not to reuse the exact same password across several accounts often partially recycle passwords with slight alterations (for example, PoppyHolly123 becomes HollyPoppy321) to help them remember.
But password reuse is a dangerous practice, as the compromise of just one password can open the flood gates for intruders to access multiple services and get their hands on a range of sensitive data.
With complex and strong passwords being so important and yet so difficult to remember, it makes sense to invest in a password manager to remove the need to memorize multiple passwords, negating the issue of password reuse by storing passwords in a secure and readily available environment.
Save Time And Resources
Account resets and the retrieval of passwords that people have forgotten are tasks frequently carried out by IT departments. On a daily basis, IT teams spend time assisting employees who have been locked out of their accounts and applications due to forgetting their password after frequent changes, or because it they were told to make sure it was long and complex—which made it difficult to remember—or because they misplaced the post-it they wrote it down on (don’t do this!).
Password retrieval can eat up a lot of time and IT resource, and this time wasted could be put to better use by both employees and IT teams. A password manager is a convenient and easy way to avoid this daily hassle altogether.
Prevent Brute Force Attacks
Passwords, particularly those in an organizational setting, are frequently targeted and can easily be compromised by outsiders and other employees. Some of the most frequent causes of hacking are the sharing of credentials over unsecured systems, brute force attacks (a hacking method where attackers try multiple usernames and password, often using a computer to quickly test various combinations until they find one that works), and careless or malicious insiders. Hackers are also constantly devising new and increasingly sophisticated methods of attack to maliciously access login credentials.
With a password manager in place, users can store their login credentials in an encrypted vault that hackers will be far less likely to manage to access—particularly if it’s also protected by MFA. Some password managers also generate strong, unique passwords for users; these passwords don’t need to include words or numbers that are familiar to the user to be memorable, so they are less likely to be breached and help significantly reduce the likelihood of a hacker succeeding.
Protect Against Phishing Attacks
Phishing attacks are one of the most common and effective methods employed by cyber criminals to steal login credentials. Phishing emails are emails which appear to come from legitimate sources or services and exploit this impression either by directly asking the user to send them credentials, or by redirecting recipients to bogus login screens designed to harvest their passwords. Phishing attacks rely on human fallibility—that’s what makes them so successful and so difficult to avoid—which is what makes some password managers so useful in preventing these types of attacks from succeeding. Certain corporate password managers will not serve up the passwords—and may even prevent the end user from being able to see, copy or paste in passwords—if the domain name does not match the records.
Using MFA in conjunction with the password manager tool is something we highly recommend, as it create a more comprehensive protection for your important accounts. You can check out some of the top solution on the market in out guide to The Top 11 Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Solutions For Business.
How Secure Are Password Managers?
Now, you might be thinking, “Isn’t Having All Your Important Password In One Place… Kind Of Insecure?” And that’s a fair concern. This is the kind of thing security teams warn against; don’t keep all of your passwords in a Word document, don’t keep them all on a post-it that you stick somewhere on your desk, don’t keep them in a spreadsheet on your computer or in your cloud provider, etc. These are not safe practices, as any one of these actions could lead to data breaches.
But a password manager—especially the enterprise-grade password managers used by businesses—are designed for this task. Add multi-factor authentication alongside using a strong master password on your encrypted digital vault and you’ve got a solid layer of protection for managing passwords, password sharing, secure file storage etc.
What you do want to avoid is choosing the wrong password manager: one that hasn’t been properly vetted or assessed. It is recommended that you do your due diligence by making sure whichever password manager you are considering is a properly vetted and tested platform, as well as ensuring you are familiar with the feature set they offer at each level. It is also a good idea to go open source, since the code is constantly under scrutiny and there is a greater level of transparency.
A password manager is one of the most useful tools out there for securing user and multi-user login details safely. These solutions work to ensure individuals and workforces can keep track of the ever-growing number of passwords they have to secure apps and accounts in the digital world we live in. Having this tool in place allows people to use long, unique, and complex passwords without risking losing access to accounts, wasting the time of IT teams, or leaving themselves open to a password-related breach. For more information on the top password managers on the market, take a look at our buyers’ guides to The Top 10 Password Managers For Business and The Top 10 Alternatives To LastPass.