Can I Streamline My Passwords?

Ah, passwords – the internet’s most helpful headache.

No matter how much you want to protect your data, it can be tempting to simplify your ever-growing password collection. But you don’t want to solve one problem only to create new ones.

In the examples below, four people have tried to solve their password overload – let’s see how each one did.

#1: Reusing Passwords

“More passwords, more problems.” That’s the motto of One-and-Done Will.

Will decided using the same password for every account would make it easier to remember his login information. He wouldn’t have to think when making new passwords, either.

Hackers and bots are big fans of Will’s method. Once they figure out his password, they can use it to log into every single one of his accounts without breaking a sweat.

Will needs to have a varied set of passwords. Otherwise, his security is one-and-done too.

#2: Using Easy-to-Remember Words or Personal Info

Quizmaster Kelly likes to use trivia about herself to craft easy-to-remember passwords. “423KingStreet” (her address) and “July1963!” (her birth month) are just two of her masterpieces.

By switching up her passwords, Kelly has successfully thwarted the laziest of intruders. She still has a problem, though: if a bot has collected any of her personal data, or if someone she knows is trying to hack her, her passwords are almost as transparent as Will’s. Turns out quizzes aren’t so hard when you already know the answers.

Kelly needs passwords with a minimum level of complexity to keep them from being guessable. That means no common names or dictionary words, and a good mix of some or all of the following: uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters (for example, a question mark or ampersand).

#3: Writing Passwords Down

Nick the Notetaker has a theory: if all your passwords are written down, you won’t have to worry about memorization, and hackers can’t guess them. Nick writes his passwords in his notebook, which he keeps in a drawer at his desk.

Nick is getting there. There’s one major problem, though – if Nick can read his password off a list, everyone can. Even if he locks his desk drawer, all it takes is a misplaced key to make his passwords freely available.

#4: Using a Secure Password Manager

Hackbuster Helen is on her A game. She knows that by using a digital password manager, she can save her login ID and password for every account she uses without worrying about theft, bots, or memorization.

The app keeps her passwords secure behind a two-factor authentication system (it texts or calls to verify it’s her when she logs in). While it’s active, the app fills in her passwords automatically when she visits sites she’s registered for. It even helps her generate new, random passwords.

Some of Helen’s favorite password managers include:

  • Bitwarden
  • LastPass
  • 1Password
  • Keeper

These apps work with a wide range of devices and browsers, and many offer a free tier that’s enough for the average user.

Helen says options like iCloud Keychain (for Apple devices) and Google Password Manager (a browser-based wallet) are good too, despite some limitations on how and where you can access them.

As with any new software, you should research the features of each before signing up.