How do we cope with our growing digital lives?  How do we manage the ever increasing amounts of digital stuff we create and use?  This is the challenge of Personal Information Management.   

 

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Entries in Passwords (2)

Thursday
Jan192012

A new password management system gives me some peace, sort of

Last year I wrote about getting my password management problem under control using a Mac-based password management product called 1Password.  Now that I've used it for a while, this is what I've found.

The Pros

This software has delivered on its key promise: all my passwords are in one secure location and accessible to me via a single master password. I have used it to store all kinds of account information, from financial accounts to reward programs to the access keys for my wireless router. It has allowed me to create long, difficult to crack passwords for my sensitive accounts, because I am freed from having to remember them.  When it comes time to retrieve a password for an infrequently used account, I can get it quickly.

The Cons

The problem with the software is that the web browser extensions, which allow you to easily save and submit passwords on the web, haven't always worked. They don't always "remember" enough to ensure that I can automatically sign-in to a password protected site later. At times it works beautifully. At times it falls on its face, whereupon I have to open up the 1Password software, retrieve the user information and login manually to the site in question. Not fatal, but enough to diminish the sense of smug, self-satisfaction that accompanied my possession of such an awesome tool (when I thought it would work seamlessly).

The mobile iPhone companion app has also been problematic.  Entering my long master password (with numbers and letters) proved so difficult on the iPhone that I had to switch the master password to a long compound word with no numbers in it so that I could actually type it in without botching it. The built in dropbox sync to my iPhone is not working for some reason, so the new passwords I'm saving on my other machines are not propagating to the iPhone. When I have some time I'll see if I can get it working again.  The basic iPhone app that I paid extra for lacks the ability for me to copy and paste passwords on the iPhone.  This capability is only available if I buy a more expensive version of the app, something which really annoys me.  I wasn't aware of how important this would be when I bought the cheaper version of the app.  Now I'm just angry because they withheld essential functionality from the mobile app that I did buy. Last, I am prompted to update the base 1Password software with annoying regularity, which interrupts whatever I am doing at the time. 

On balance, this has been a useful tool that hasn't delivered on all of its promises.  The peace of mind that accompanies better and more secure control of my passwords is mine, but at the cost of aggravations that make me, well, less peaceful.

This is part of a series of posts summarizing my PIM activities in 2011.

Tuesday
Apr122011

Getting the password management problem under control and then some

For 10 years my password management system has been a piece of paper in my desk drawer where I wrote down all the passwords to my different accounts.  Well, almost.  It seemed I never had them all in one place and was always having to reset one or another password because I had forgotten it.  Or I was at work or someplace else and didn't have access to my piece of paper.

Not anymore.  A couple of weeks ago I installed a software package called 1Password that allows me to keep all my passwords and related identity and account information in one file, protected with a single master password.  Forget or lose this password and the system fails, but in every other respect it seems a good solution. Not only does it let me store all my passwords and login information, but it lets me store all my account numbers, frequent flier numbers, software license keys, and even secure notes, so that I can remember what my "secret questions" and answers are that some sites require.  It is integrated with my browser so that I can capture and store logins whenever I access a system, and then it provides an easy way to generate strong passwords so that I can start using different passwords and strong passwords for every system I have access to, something that wasn't the case before.  

I had been thinking of getting such a tool for a while and was finally spurred on by a fascinating article about how a security firm was brutally hacked because the CEO was careless in the way he managed his passwords (among other things).  Like me he used the same password for multiple systems and in some cases used passwords that were weak and easily cracked.  With a tool like 1Password, there is no excuse for doing such a thing.  

The encrypted file sits in my Dropbox folder, which means it is synchronized across all my devices.  There is also an iPhone app that has access to this information.  So whether I need to remember the password to my wireless router or whether I need to get my frequent flier number, it's available from any of my devices.  I just need to remember the one password.  To me this is a key piece of my personal information management (PIM) puzzle and I'm glad I've got it under control.

 

   One password to rule them all