Since the beginning of the digital age – and probably since before even that – passwords have played a big part in our everyday lives. From logging into our personal computers at home, to accessing the apps and software we need for work, we have probably got pretty used to entering passwords by now.
But, just like any point of access, passwords are also a point of weakness for systems. We can think of them as a lock on a door, and, as we know, locks can be picked, or subverted in other ways, to gain unauthorised entry. So, passwords have become more complex, and best practices have become more numerous, to reflect this.
Not Another Password!
Always use passwords with multiple upper and lower case letters. Always use passwords with numbers in them, or with non-letter symbols to throw potential hackers off the scent. Never use the same password – or variations of the same – for multiple applications. Never keep all of your passwords in one place. We will all have encountered these rules and pieces of advice over the course of our password-using career.
However, this last rule is becoming increasingly obsolete. ‘Never keep all of your passwords in one place’ is a little out of date now, and advises against clumsy practices of writing passwords on a note attached to the underside of your keyboard, or on a slip of paper in your wallet. If someone finds this note, all of your passwords are gone, in one fateful move. But the world has moved on somewhat since the time that this was a genuine danger, so perhaps we can amend this rule a little: ‘If you are going to keep all of your passwords in one place, make sure you will be using a password manager’.
Your business is likely to draw upon a great deal of different applications, software pieces, and other digital assets as part of its day to day operations. This means a great many passwords, too, which leads to spiralling password management costs as we try to keep all of these details together. With this in mind, it is easy to see why standard juggling and memorising of so many different code words, across your entire organisation, is simply not feasible, and this is why password managers like LastPass have become such an important part of SME operation in Australia.
So, how do you choose a password manager, and what are the features your password manager simply must have? Let’s take a look.
Why Use a Password Manager
Your business depends on swift, reliable access to applications, software pieces, offline digital platforms such as operating systems, and many other facilities which require a password login. Perhaps you log into many of these on a daily basis, which makes things a little easier – few of us forget our Facebook or online banking passwords, for example – but this is just a drop in the ocean. Memorising all of these passwords, across your whole workforce, is impossible.
What’s more, we are putting ourselves at risk. Many of the passwords we use – 21% according to some sources – are over ten years old, simply because these are so easy to remember. Easy to remember, maybe, but easy to hack too. And once one domino falls, others begin to fall too – a staggering 73% of online accounts are guarded by duplicated passwords. A hacker simply needs to guess one, and the rest will follow.
This is why a password manager is an attractive proposition, but it is unsurprising that questions still remain. These are passwords after all; not something to be played around with. Instead, they must be treated with care and responsibility, which is why so many business owners are reluctant to invest in password managers – the stakes are just too high.
But this is a serious missed opportunity, and here’s why;
Password managers are secure
Let’s address the most pertinent concern first – security. By choosing a reputable and respectable password manager, your business will be increasing its security levels rather than putting them at risk. Password managers such as LastPass and KeePass make it easier to create unique and effective passwords for business-critical applications, and also provide step by step programs to appraise and reinforce security.
Encryption further strengthens this security. By using a password manager, you are not surrendering your passwords to a third party. Instead, you are engaging with an encrypted service which will keep your passwords safe and hidden from all entities. This is why as many as 43,000 business ownersare thought to use LastPass for their passwords protection.
Password managers dramatically increase productivity
A password is like a key: when you have it, access is quick and easy, when you don’t, you are stuck. Each year, valuable working hours are wasted on trying to remember passwords, trying different passwords, and, ultimately, on resetting the password so the user can get back into the system.
Password managers eliminate this, saving crucial minutes every time the user logs in; minutes which seriously add up over the year. Password managers also support seamless cross-platform actions, further boosting productivity across entire teams.
Lost passwords can be an expensive risk
Resetting passwords is annoying and significantly saps productivity, but the stakes can be even higher than this. If you feel that a password may have been compromised, you will need to change this password for all users across all access points, which is expensive in its own right.
However, you may also lose access to important digital assets. This is not such a danger for applications and platforms, which have recovery protocols in place for this very reason, but is a significant danger for files and stored documents. Losing access to these items may require specialised recovery services, or may be permanent in some cases.
Password managers implement organisation-wide changes
Your organisation needs to be harmonious. Separate departments need to work together as a unified whole, facilitating agility, flexibility, and capability, on a broad scale. Passwords are a big part of supporting this, and so, when you roll them out or edit them, you need to be able to do so on an organisation-wide basis, ensuring that all team members with the necessary tier of security clearance can access the passwords they need.
It is very difficult to achieve this without a solid password manager solution in place.
What to Look for in a Password Manager
Apps and Tools
A password manager might seem like a relatively simple solution, but the best ones will come with applications and tools designed to augment your experience, particularly premium solutions which carry a subscription fee.
These tools include password generators, one to one sharing capabilities, and security ‘challenges’ to test the organisation’s existing security set-up.
Encryption will be a standard feature on any reputable password manager. The idea of a password manager is not to simply surrender all of your passwords to a third party, who then looks after them for you. Instead, the aim is to use an automated, encrypted service which keeps passwords safe from all other entities, while also being accessible for you and your team.
Look for password management solutions which can offer these levels of encryption.
High Levels of Tech Support
Automated tools and hands-off encryption is vital, but there must also be a human element to the solution you choose. This human element will be found in the support the provider offers – this can be delivered via chatbots and other automatic channels, but must be supported by an expert team of human support staff.
You need to know that you and your business are not alone when you use a password manager, and high levels of tech support are necessary if this is to be achieved.
Which operating system does your business use? Which browser do your teams use? Is there a single answer to either of these questions, or do you use a combination of different types of browser and OS? Whatever your own preference, your password management solution needs to support the tech you are using.
High-quality password managers will feature several different setup options on your hardware. These will include browser extensions for single browsers, universal binary installation for multiple browsers, and standalone management applications for the desktop.
The structure of your own business will dictate which of these setup options you use. However, you need to make sure that the password manager you choose is able to support this.
A password manager solution is just that: a solution to manage your passwords. This means that you, and anyone else with clearance, needs to be able to get in there and make any amendments, changes, or reviews, necessary to keep your business running as it should.
This cannot be achieved if the password manager you choose is characterised by confusing menus and less than straight-forward features. Test drive the solution before you buy to make sure it suits you and your team.
Some Of The Best Password Managers Currently Available
- Available on a free or a premium subscription
- Perhaps the most feature-rich password managers on the market with a wide range of apps and tools
- Assistance with security, including guidance in eliminating risk for password data
- Two-factor authentication
- A more streamlined option, easy to port between devices with minimal installation required
- Database transfer and import and export from and to multiple file sources is supported
- Password groups to support larger organisations, encrypted to ensure security
- One of the best password generators available
- Powerful free service capable of managing up to 50 passwords
- Autofill password storage available on free version
- Low cost premium version enables unlimited password management across unlimited devices
- Premium version also includes Dark Web Monitoring and VPN tools
- Free and premium versions available
- Secure encryption keeps passwords safe
- Manage passwords in browser and across all downloaded apps
- Two factor authentication for additional security
- Supports Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers for password autfill
- End to end AES256 encryption, deployed by the expert TunnelBear VPN team
- Password protected notes feature
- Password management across multiple devices
- Streamlined version available for free, with a free trial for premium version
- Secure email sharing of login credentials
- Robust password generator and storage
- Account data backup available on some subscription levels
- Passwords saved across multiple devices, automatically
- Secure password generator tools
- Secure sharing capability
- Multiple layers of security for all accounts
Passwords are critical for securing your valuable data and your accounts across a number of platforms, but this may change in the future. Microsoft are already laying the groundwork for password free access, using biometric data from thumbprints and facial scans to take security to the next level.
To learn more about the future of secure access, and about selecting the ideal password manager for your services, speak to the Productiv team today.