Screenshot
Keeper is among the increasingly popular password managers.

Passwords are a blessing and a curse. Of course we want to keep our information private, and having a good password can help with that. But when you consider the huge numbers of websites and apps that require passwords, maintaining strong passwords becomes daunting.

According to Statista, hackers exposed nearly 179 million records in more than one million data breaches in 2017. If you’re wondering whether your personal information may have been compromised within those massive numbers, Business Insider lists some of the biggest companies involved including Facebook, Google, T-Mobile, Marriott hotels and My Fitness Pal. Any of those sound familiar?

It’s time to get serious about creating and maintaining strong passwords, and there is a lot of help out there to make it easier on you. Password managers enable you to create one complex password that is the key to your password kingdom. In an encrypted vault, the manager stores and can suggest and create every password for every website and app you use. You just have to remember that master password without writing it down on a sticky note.

But what if someone hacks in to your password manager? Nothing online is immune to hackers, but most password managers get pretty close by using multi-factor authentication. PC World noted that “security experts agree — a rarity — that password managers are the safest way for people to manage their accounts. The security benefits far outweigh the risks.”

All password managers highlighted in this column have two-factor authentication, can autofill all those tedious online forms and allow users to designate an heir to their password kingdom in case of emergency or death.

Dashlane has a free version that can manage up to 50 passwords on one device. It’s $59.88 per year for the premium version that allows unlimited passwords on unlimited devices, scans the dark web for compromised accounts and encrypts your online activity when using unsecured wifi. A Premium Plus version for $119.88 per year adds credit monitoring, identity theft insurance and identity restoration support. Dashlane has a password generator that creates and remembers complex passwords up to 40 characters in length and uses a patented security architecture to keep everything safe. For what you get, Dashland is the most expensive of the bunch.

Keeper takes security very seriously. It has deep-level encryption at the device level, so your information isn’t kept on Keeper’s servers or in the cloud. That means there is absolutely no way for them to restore you master password. That’s a good thing, but make sure you create one that you will always remember. An individual account is $30 per year for unlimited password storage and devices, a group plan is $60 per year for up to five family members with unlimited password storage and devices. Keeper works with biometrics and offers a 30 percent discount for students.

LastPass has the best free version out there with unlimited passwords, access on all devices, a password generator and multi-factor authentication. Individuals can upgrade to premium for $24 per year for some extras, including priority tech support and no ads. A family account is $48 per year for up to six users and adds a feature to allow them to share folders.

RoboForm also has a free account option that will only work on one device. Paying $23.88 per year allows unlimited devices, the ability to grant someone else emergency access and adds two-factor authentication. RoboForm also offers a student discount and a family version gives all the upgraded benefits for five users and costs $47.76 per year. I started using RoboForm years ago when there weren’t very many other options out there and it has worked fine for me. But after doing all this research, I think I’ll be switching to Keeper with its deeper security measures for just $7 more per year.

Many of these can import all your data from other password managers, but not all. If you decide to try out a different password manager than the one you’re currently using, the process should be pretty painless, just make sure your current trove of passwords will export to your new manager.

6 comments on this story

If you aren’t currently using a password manager, you aren’t alone. A 2017 survey from Pew Research Center found only 12 percent of American adults use a password manager, with 86 percent saying they memorize all passwords and 49 percent admitting to writing passwords down on a piece of paper. Dashlane found the average American internet user has 150 online accounts requiring a password. It’s highly unlikely people are memorizing 150 complex, unique, individual passwords, which means there is either a lot of repeat password usage, or people are using easy passwords like "qwerty." Neither of those options is smart or secure. And a sticky note? Please. It’s time to use a password manager. Take your pick.