I know I mentioned in my first post that I expected to start off talking about blogs, and I still do… but there’s a few handy-dandy tips and tricks I’ll want to introduce first. And this first one is a real winner: Password Management.
How many usernames and passwords do you have? If you’re anything like me 5 years ago, you probably try to use the same username and password for EVERYTHING. I had the same username and password for my school accounts, my bank accounts, my e-mail accounts, and all my various web accounts (and I had/have many web accounts). And why do we do that? Because who wants to memorize a different user name and password for every single account we have? My memory, for a lack of better term, sucks. My wife will attest to that (though I am proud that I can at least remember the dates of our anniversary, her birthday, and our baby girl’s birthday… it might take me a minute to cyphon through my all the info stored in my head, but I do have them in my memory bank somewhere). Well, that was my mentality until one day, like many of you, my e-mail account got hacked and somehow I was sending out spam to all of my friends.
VIOLATION! When your e-mail gets hacked into you feel violated, especially when you realize that if someone has your user name and password all they need to do is figure out what bank you go to and now your money is on the line. So, I found out a few years ago that I NEEDED to have different information for each of my accounts. Now, at the very least you should have a different password for each of your accounts. But now we go back to the memory issue. If I have 20 different accounts online, and each account has a different password, how do I remember which password goes to which account?
(Enter Password Management Tools)
Password Management Tools
A password management tool is a program that allows you to keep track of the name of your websites, the username you have for it, and the password associated to that username. Well, you might be thinking, I could easily do that with a word document, or a sticky note, or a million other things. Why do I need a password management program if I can just use one of those? Here’s the genius of the software – encryption. If you’re not already familiar with encryption, the watered down version of it is that your vital information is scrambled in such a way that you need a special key in order to unscramble it to make it usable. If you can’t unscramble it, you can’t access it, so unlike a sticky note (which is visible to anyone who walks by) or a word document (that is visible to anyone who gains access to your computer or flash drive), you gain some level of protection against someone stealing all of your passwords.
So, onto the password manager I use: Password Corral.
(Disclaimer! I am not advertising for Password Corral for any reason other than they are a password manager I’m familiar with and have been happy with. I am not getting money or any other benefits for creating this post… though if they are pleased with this post I wouldn’t mind a gift basket of some sorts…)
Password Corral is a very basic program that requires the use of 1 username and 1 password to access (so don’t lose/forget this one! AND Don’t give the information to anyone!). It has basic encryption capabilities, and it’s really simple to use. You can download it from many locations, but the actual website for the program is http://cygnusproductions.com/freeware/pc.asp and the location for the download itself is http://www.cygnusproductions.com/downloads/downloads.asp. To keep this post short I will provide the walkthrough for setting up Password Corral in a different Post.
BUT here’s a couple of screenshots so you get a quick idea of the program and its functionality (images have been shrunk-ificated to better fit the blog):
As you can see, you need a username and password to access the program, and there’s a convenient “New User” button to make things simple for you. This is the one user name and password you can’t forget or you’ll lose all of your information. I think they should probably provide some method for password retrieval for the case where someone does forget their primary password, but I think the logic here is “Everyone can memorize 1 username and password… right?”
The layout of the main interface is pretty basic. You’ve got a simple spreadsheet with a list of icons above them that aren’t difficult to figure out what they do (check out my next post for those descriptions). You can see the fake information I put in the first row and how it would appear. If I’d have done the Internet URL correctly it would have become a click-able link to provide fast access to the websites you need to access.
I mentioned earlier the fact that password management tools provide encryption capabilities. Well, you see the glasses icon? If you click on that button the password “abcd123!@#” would turn into something completely worthless. Why is that handy? Well if you happen to have it displayed on your monitor and someone walks by, they won’t be able to use the visible password. And then when you realize “Oh shoot, I forgot my password again” all you need to do is hit the glasses button again to make your password readable again (This will be demonstrated in the next post). The main downside is if you didn’t close the program before leaving your computer and someone else hopped onto the computer, they have access to all the information. That’s why it’s so important to close vital programs/accounts when you’re not using them (such as a banking website).
Password Corral is not necessarily the best option available, but it’s one I’m familiar with, is simple to use, and is one I’ve been pleased with. There are many other password Management programs available, some of which even capture your information for you and automatically input your login information when you enter a site (to some degree, this sounds a little less safe to me). To get a good idea of the different tools out there you can google “Password Management Tools” and you’ll get many links to pop up. You can also check out a review of many tools by PC Magazine at http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp. You’ll notice that many of them come at a cost, but there are a few free options in there, and those that do cost often have additional features and benefits to them.
Join me next time for the Password Corral Download and Setup Walkthrough!