Every website you visit these days seems to want you to sign in, or sign up, for something. This requires you to create a user name and password and it seems every site has different directions. Some want all lowercase letters, some want letters and numbers, some allow special characters, some hate special characters. It’s enough to drive you nuts! How are you supposed to remember all those variations?

One easy solution is to use the same password for every site. But…this is definitely not something that is recommended. Why? If someone figured out that one password then they would have access to everything! I know several people who use the same password for Facebook as they do their email account. When someone was able to hack their Facebook account they also had access to their email account, which resulted in some crazy emails being sent to all contacts.

So if you don’t use the same password for everything, then you are stuck remembering different passwords for different sites. Add those details to all the numbers, dates, and ‘stuff’ floating around in your brain and how are you supposed to recall anything? Use a password manager!

In this newsletter I’m going to talk about two different methods for managing your online passwords and logins – traditional notebook and online vault

The first is the traditional method of keeping a password management book. This could be a spiral bound notebook, a small moleskin notebook, a index card box etc. in which you write down the website, the login you selected and the password you use.

  • Pros: easy to access and easy to add to
  • Cons: not very secure. Of course you could store your notebook in a safe spot, but unless it is a locked diary or written in code, realistically anybody could find it and use it. I would imagine most of us using password books keep them relatively close to our main computer.

The second less traditional method is utilizing on online password management vault or password manager. This is an online storage site, often a ‘cloud’, where you store all of your passwords, using one primary access password to retrieve the information you are after.

  • Pros: Apparently now there are some managers which have smart phone apps as well!, you can access the passwords from anywhere, there is only one password you need to remember. All your passwords, one place, easy access.
  • Cons: As with anything you put online, there is always the possibility the program/cloud will go away. This happens when companies fold or change owners. If this was to happen, all your stored passwords would be gone and you may need to start from scratch. Also, what if you forget that one all encompassing password? How would you access the rest of your passwords? What if your computer was down?

Regardless of which type of password management system you choose to use, it is vital to keep it up to date. Cross out or delete old passwords, make sure your writing is legible if utilizing a notebook, be consistent with recording new passwords and which sites they are related to. A secondary benefit of a password manager is related to estate management. When you are no longer here, will someone be able to access your online accounts to close them out?

For information on online password managers, CNET does a great job of reviewing those available. Many are free, although pay attention because there are a few which have a cost associated with them. Maybe you will never encounter an online hacker…but wouldn’t you rather be safe?

*image by Flickr user stebulus, used via Creative Commons*