The best password managers roughly fall into 2 categories. Either you must be online to retrieve them from the cloud, or they are stored offline in your own storage area. Also in this review, I am setting some ground rules to narrow down the field a bit.
These password managers must:
- Store passwords in a secure manner;
- Include browser plugin so that your passwords can be ‘easily’ retrieved;
- Have been around long enough that trust in their software/services and security practices is high;
- Be free!
There are many password managers to choose from and I am not digging at any of the other ones; I simply want to keep this list limited to the ‘big players.’ If you have a password manager (or method) you would like to share with us; please do so in the comments below. We have featured a number of the best password managers below, and others, here on MakeUseOf. Without further ado, the final list of our contenders:
Clipperz, reviewed by us here, is “much more than a password manager” as stated on its website. Clipperz will store all kinds of information about a website including any form information and passwords all on their web service.
Being open source means that the code running behind the scenes is open for community inspection, ostensibly meaning that the security of the site is better than if it was closed-source. As an added benefit, it allows Clipperz to offer a Community Edition that enables you to host a version of their service on your own website. This would be a good option if you are paranoid about the software and people running the service behind the scenes.
The only thing I found to really complain about is the lack of tight browser integration. Firefox (and Opera) have the ability to run a stripped down version of the site in the sidebar; allowing you to login directly to the site and retrieve passwords from there. Otherwise, Clipperz is a solid service; and runs on donations.
Keepass (Windows, only; and its bretheren KeepassX, For Linux and MacOS X) is an offline password manager which encrypts and stores your passwords in a file which adheres to a common standard; and is readable by a number of programs based off the Keepass code. That means that there are readers available for just about every platform under the sun. While it is “offline” there are some cool hacks that allow you to access your store in many locations.
For the browser component, there are a number of plugins which allow direct access to your passwords within your web windows without having to use an external program.
Keepass is time-tested and secure; I used to carry around a portable edition on my USB key chain. While I like the independence of it, I did find it a hassle to use at times and found myself more often than not leaving it in my pocket rather than dragging it out and loading it up (lazy, I know!).
LastPass is an online password manager available for free. While it is not open source, they say that they often review their code for security implications and haven’t had any breaches that that community knows of. They also have a professional account which will give you mobile access to your passwords, and I like that they have a clear revenue stream which will (hopefully) mean that they will be around for the long run. They also give you the ability to import and export your passwords.
Another cool feature is the security challenge. This will analyze your existing passwords and give you a score based on how strong and how unique your passwords are. This gives you something to test yourself and to make your passwords more secure.
Browser integration is awesome and I think the winning feature of Lastpass. It is extremely easy to use their password manager within any browser you wish – it even works on the latest beta versions. They keep on top of their plugins and it shows.
I thought I would be remiss without going over some of the pay options quickly. These options meet the critieria above but do have a fee associated with them. Both solutions have a 30-day free demo.
Roboform started off as a form field remembering app but is now a full-on password manager. It stores your password encrypted and is very similar to LastPass above.
1Password has especially tight integration with MacOS X and if you are on that platform I would seriously take a look at them. They include many of the features above but is also tightly integrated with the OS and browser. They have versions for other operating systems but really shine on the Mac end. It costs $39 for a single user license and stores them offline. An online version is available so that you can access your passwords anywhere.
LastPass! LastPass has the best overall features and its price point (free) is very reasonable for any user. The only reason I would not recommend it is if you ever need to access your passwords offline; otherwise it is just about perfect. If you do wish to access your passwords offline you might want to try out Keepass which is also a very good password manager. Let us know if you have any other favorite password managers for keeping your passwords secure!
Image courtesy Shutterstock.