Here’s the catch with passwords: the easier they are for you to remember, the easier they are for someone to crack. Maybe you have a handful of unbreakable passwords that you’ve memorized, but the human brain can only hold so much before these passwords become cumbersome.
For example, one of our writers counted almost 150 unique passwords in her password manager. Can you keep that many passwords in memory? Probably not, especially if those passwords are lengthy and secure.
That’s why you need a password manager if you aren’t already using one — and with mobile Web browsing rates on the rise, it has never been more important to have a password manager on your mobile device. Don’t skip over these apps. They’ll keep your accounts secure and make your life easier.
LastPass (Free Trial, $12/Year)
LastPass is one of the most well-known password managers out there, consistently topping the charts and winning awards. It’s been around for years and, despite a few bumps here and there, has clung to its crown for most of that time.
Here’s how it works: all of your passwords are encrypted and stored on LastPass servers. All you have to do is memorize a master password. Knowing this password grants you access to all of your other passwords. Sounds simple enough, right?
When logging into apps and websites, LastPass will remember your credentials and auto-fill the next time you need to log in. The built-in Security Challenge feature will gauge the strength of your passwords and the Secure Notes feature allows you to store sensitive data like credit card numbers.
One main selling point is that LastPass is truly cross-platform. Not only do they provide extensions for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer, but they provide desktop apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux as well as mobile apps on Android, iOS, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. One set of passwords, accessible anywhere.
Though LastPass is free for desktops and browsers, the mobile apps are only compatible if you have LastPass Premium, which costs $12 per year. Premium features include the ability to share notes and logins with trusted people and a few advanced authentication options.
KeePass is one of the most popular open source password managers currently available, making it a big competitor to the above-mentioned LastPass. While it doesn’t have the sheer numbers to match the popularity of LastPass, the fact that KeePass is open source is a huge selling point.
After all, if you’re going to trust a service with all of your important passwords, wouldn’t you want assurance that they aren’t tampering with that information? Wouldn’t you want proof that the app is doing exactly what it claims to be doing?
You can’t get this kind of guarantee with proprietary software, but the open source philosophy allows you to peek at the code and see what’s happening under the hood (assuming you have the expertise to read said code).
KeePass2Android is one of several third-party apps that can read and write in the format used by KeePass. KeePass databases can be synchronized with cloud storage (e.g. Dropbox or Google Drive) and, like LastPass, all you need is a single master password.
This app has a built-in password generator with various options as well as a “soft keyboard” that allows you to enter passwords without worrying that your credentials might be intercepted by password sniffing malware.
Dashlane (Free, $40/Year)
As its name implies, Dashlane makes your life simpler and faster by letting you forget about security — one tap is all it takes to log into websites or enter your credit card details. Yup, this app is a combined password manager and secure wallet.
Dashlane’s security is serious too. All data and communication is encrypted with AES-256 and the app auto-locks after inactivity. It comes with a password generator, and if the service detects a security breach, it will alert you about it.
Your data can be saved local-only or backed up to Dashlane’s cloud. It’s up to you.
What I like most about Dashlane is its clean and modern interface. Call me a sucker for good aesthetics, but I find it much easier to navigate than some of its competitors, and this is on top of the great feature set — which, all in all, makes Dashlane a fantastic option.
Dashlane is the most expensive app on this list, but it doesn’t have to be. The premium subscription, which costs $40 per year, provides secure account backups, cross-device synchronization, and Web access to your passwords. All other features are available in the free version, and that’s likely enough for most of us.
mSecure is a cross-platform solution that works on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and most recently, Windows Phone. It’s packed full of nifty features, making it surprisingly popular for an app that has no free trial or Lite version.
This app remembers your credentials for apps and websites and makes it easy to one-tap login the next time around.
Like Dashlane, mSecure is more than just a password manager; it’s a data protector. Passwords, account names, credit card numbers — they’re all locked under AES-256 encryption and automatically backed up (to email, SD card, or cloud storage).
In the event that someone steals your Android device, mSecure provides a self-destruct feature that wipes data when it detects unauthorized tampering.
The one big bummer about mSecure is its upfront cost. The price tag isn’t bad, but the lack of a free trial makes it an apprehensive purchase. Lots of people love this app, but will you? You won’t know until you buy it. Long term, however, its a better deal than Dashlane.
1Password (Free Trial, $5)
1Password has many of the same features as Dashlane and mSecure: password and credit card memory, a single master password, one-tap login to apps and websites, AES-256 encryption, and device auto-lock after inactivity.
1Password also syncs across multiple other devices, including Windows, Mac, and iOS. The free trial is a 30-day pass that let’s you use 1Password to its fullest. When the trial ends, you must upgrade for $5. Other devices have their own licenses that you must purchase (e.g. $50 for a Windows license).
All in all, 1Password is on the same level as Dashlane and mSecure, but much cheaper and even available to try for an entire month before you decide whether you want to commit. The interface is beautiful and the features are solid. Definitely can’t go wrong with this one.
Which One Should You Use? Any!
Password managers are everywhere these days — even your Web browser has a built-in password manager feature — and it’s about time that we embrace it. Strong passwords are crucial because bad passwords are surprisingly easy to crack, and don’t forget to use encryption whenever possible.
Maybe one day we’ll move past passwords for security, but until that day comes, these manager tools will enable you to stay safe without any of the hassle. Pick whichever one you like best. As long as you’re using something, you’ll be good to go.
Which password manager do you prefer? If you aren’t using one, why not? What would convince you to try? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!