WHY YOU REALLY NEED A PASSWORD MANAGER
Everyone who spends any time on the internet today has numerous online accounts and passwords, from social media, email, online shopping, forums, work, and lots of other sites. At last count, I have almost 700 passwords stored in my LastPass vault. That’s a lot of passwords to try and remember without using the same password on more than one site. Trying to recall that many long passwords is far beyond my abilities. Keeping a written log of that many passwords is cumbersome and far less secure.
I used to have my own password scheme that let me generate seemingly random passwords based on some information about the website where that password was used. I thought I was being slick because I was using unique passwords for each site and I could remember them pretty easily. Then I got hacked. Someone was able to crack my Gmail password and in one night was able to break into my online account with my bank, my PayPal account, and several others. They did not use my email account to reset the passwords rather it seems they had figured out how my password scheme worked and they were able to use that to figure out my other passwords. Thankfully I keep close tabs on my financial accounts and was able to stop them before losing any money. That was a close call that I never want to repeat. I did a lot of fast research and by the end of that day, I was using LastPass for all of my important personal online accounts. Over time I have added all of my online accounts to LastPass and I have created long, randomly generated passwords the LastPass keeps track of for me.
If you have any online accounts you need a password manager that not only remembers your passwords but can help you create really good ones. Personally, I use LastPass because it does a lot of things I find useful and it is the most secure program that I have found.
The Best And Worst of LastPass
FEATURES I LIKE
ACHIEVING MAXIMUM SECURITY
Using long passwords generated from random letters, numbers, and symbols is the best password security you can hope to achieve. I recommend using the longest password you are allowed up to 16-22 characters. The benefit of having passwords longer than 22 characters is minimal and many sites will not let you use longer passwords anyhow.
LastPass has an awesome password generator that will create these passwords for you. I use this password generator for every new online account that I open. Tip: Vary the length of your passwords to help protect them – If a hacker has to guess how long the password is it makes it harder to break the password. The password generator lets you choose how long a password you want to create, what combination of letters, numbers, and symbols you want, and whether or not you want it to be pronounceable. I recommend not making pronounceable passwords unless you will need to enter them manually for some reason.
HOW CLIENT-SIDE ENCRYPTION PROTECTS YOUR PRIVACY
LastPass exclusively uses what is called client-side encryption. What this means is basically that all of the encryption and decryption are done on your device, not on any LastPass server. All of the information is already encrypted by the time LastPass sees it so they are unable to read it. And, if LastPass can’t read it then neither can anyone else who might access the LastPass server. This includes government agencies, hackers, stalkers, or disgruntled employees. The only way to get at your information is through the app or plugin on your device using your master password. So choose your password with care and do not forget it. To learn more about client-side encryption security read this article on the LastPass website.
SECURE ACCESS TO YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
One of the features I really love about LastPass is Secure Notes. These little preformatted notes allow me to keep loads of my personal information handy but safe.
I keep all of my credit cards and bank accounts in my Secure Notes. This way I have ready access to all of the account and contact information and nobody else can steal it. Losing my wallet or my checkbook can cause a lot of headaches, but losing my phone will not give anyone else access to the information stored in my Secure Notes.
I keep my driver’s license information along with all of my insurance there as well. I can even keep a picture of each of them. While these pictures might not qualify as proof of insurance or identity I expect they will not hurt to have if I ever lose the originals.
I also keep things like social security numbers and other bits of information for all of my family members so that I can look them up easily and I do not need to carry these things with me. They have preformatted forms for wifi passwords, software licenses, email server settings, databases, memberships, and more.
Best LastPass Features
Use A Single Master Password To Access All Your Passwords
Secure Notes Lets You Store All Your Personal Information Securely
PERFORM A SECURITY AUDIT
The Security Challenge feature of LastPass is awesome. LastPass will look over all of your stored information and then make suggestions about how to beef up your security. They will check to see if any of your email addresses have been identified in connection with a security breach and then they will help you change your password for that account. I just recently ran the Security Challenge and found that my twitter account might have been compromised. LastPass offered to change the password for me and I let them. With a single click, my password was changed and LastPass had updated itself with the new password. How is that for simplified security.
The Security Challenge also checks things like how old your passwords are and makes sure you are not using the same password for more than one account. LastPass can update the passwords for me on many of the sites that I use so it is as easy as one click and the account gets a new secure password and the information is updated in LastPass at the same time.
SHARE YOUR PASSWORDS EASILY
When I first signed up with LastPass I thought they were crazy! Share my passwords??? Why would I want to do that? Well, I have found this feature rather handy actually. You can only share a given password with one other person unless you pay for the premium version, but I have not needed this feature so far.
I have a regular guest author on one of my other websites and I found it inconvenient to have her send me updates and edits to her articles that I then had to implement on the website. I created an account on the website for her and shared all of the login information with her via LastPass. This kept my website login information secure and made it convenient for her to access her content on my website so she could make her own updates and corrections. Now, she can even post her own articles so I don’t have to do that either.
My wife and I share a few accounts where our login information is the same for both of us. With LastPass, I can easily share the information with her and she can have the same easy access that I enjoy. An added benefit to sharing the password this way is when one of us updates or changes the password LastPass updates the information for both of us.
AUTOMATIC FORM FILLS
I have never really used this feature myself but I know several people who absolutely love it. The idea is that you enter all of the information you might normally put in a web form like name, address, phone number, email address, etc. Now, when you come to a form that you need to fill out LastPass can automatically fill in all of the information it knows and you only have to type in the few bits that it doesn’t. You can even create custom fields so if you frequently fill out online forms that need information LastPass doesn’t have a form fill field for you can create it and use it. I don’t use this feature mainly because I have too many different sets of data that I use to fill in online forms. You can create multiple “identities” or sets of data but keeping all of that updated was just too much work for me.
Try LastPass Premium FREE For 30 Days!
LastPass offers a wide range of integration apps and plugins. They have a plugin or module for every major browser that makes automatically filling in your username and password a breeze. These will also usually update your information in LastPass if you change it while using the browser on the website you are logging into. I use both Chrome and Firefox and have had no issues with either browser plugin. I have not heard of any issues with other browsers but I cannot say anything from personal experience with them.
LastPass also offers apps for Android, Apple, and Windows smartphones. I use Android exclusively so again I do not have any experience with the others. I do not personally know anyone who uses LastPass apps on Apple or Windows smartphones. The Android app is just ok. The app itself is really pretty good but the security protocols Android uses makes day to day usage a bit complicated sometimes.
On my Android phone, I frequently do not get the automatic popup offering to fill in my username and password. This means that I need to pull down my notifications and tap on the LastPass Autofill option. Not a big deal but a little less convenient than my browser. Some apps will not let LastPass enter the information for me so then I need to copy and paste it manually which can get really annoying at times. Finally, some apps will not let me paste the information into the login screen and so I need to manually type in the username and password. This is mainly limited to banking and other high-security apps but it can be very annoying, especially with the long random character passwords that I use. This is in no way LastPass’s fault it is a limitation imposed by the Android or other app’s security protocols.
Using LastPass on more than one device can cause a bit of lag time between when information gets entered on one device and updated on another. I have not run into this more than two or three times but it can be a headache when you really need to use that new password. You can manually refresh the information on any of the apps but none of them make it easy. Because I don’t do this very often I always have a dickens of a time trying to find the option to refresh the information on my device. Making this option a little easier to find is about the only annoyance I have that LastPass could fix.
Who Should Use LastPass
LastPass limits its emergency access feature to its premium subscribers. This is the one feature that I wish I had access to. Basically, how it works is you select anyone, they do not have to be a LastPass user, to be your emergency access person. This person can contact LastPass on your behalf if you are unable to manage your account. LastPass will then spend 24 hours attempting to reach you to ask if you want to allow that person to access your LastPass vault. If you do not respond within 24 hours they will give that person full access to your LastPass vault. Make sure you REALLY trust your designated emergency access person!
I really like this feature and wish it was available on the free service. I have found a way around it, however. LastPass does allow you to create one-time passwords to access your vault. The intended purpose of this is to allow you to have a way you can access your vault without using your master password. There are a variety of reasons you might want to do this but I use it to give one-time access to my wife. If something happens to me there is a file folder that contains most of the documents she will need ready access to. Among those is a one-time password for my LastPass vault. This way she can get access to all of my passwords and change the master password so she can access that information as she needs to. This is not quite as nice as the emergency access feature but it will do the job whenever that day comes.
THINGS I DON’T LIKE
This is not uncommon for free services and LastPass does not seem to do any worse than anyone else in this area. I have never needed to try and get technical support so I don’t know much here myself. I have heard a variety of experiences from folks I know who have tried to get support from LastPass. Some say it was good and some say it wasn’t. The two people I know who have premium have nothing but good to say about their tech support experiences.
With all that being said the online documentation, FAQs, and video instructions that are available online for LastPass are pretty good. I have managed to figure out the couple of issues I have run into on my own so I am happy with it. If you find you need support or feel you will likely need it, then I might suggest signing up for a year of premium so you can get the premium support if you need it. I would recommend using the free service until you know you will need the support though.
Who Should NOT Use LastPass
A FALSE SENSE OF SECURITY
Using a tool like LastPass can lull you into thinking your information is more secure than it is. You are still responsible for making sure you follow security best practices in all areas of your business and personal life. This includes things like making sure you have a really secure master password. Using LastPass for all of your online accounts and using the security challenge feature regularly. Only use safe internet connections to access your critical accounts – Your LastPass information might be encrypted but your login might not be.
We all need to be very aware of our online security and what we can do to help keep ourselves and our information safe. No tool will replace your own vigilance and awareness. LastPass is an excellent tool to help simplify your security and privacy but it cannot think for you! Please, use LastPass to help you but also be sure to keep alert and be aware of your surroundings both online and off.
SHOULD I BUY THE PREMIUM VERSION?
I do not subscribe to any of the paid tiers of LastPass and I think that most people will not find it adds much value. The main features of the Premium subscription are:
- Enhanced multi-factor authentication options
- Sharing one password with more than one other person
- Priority Tech Support
- LastPass for Windows applications
- Allow emergency access to your account
- 1GB encrypted file storage
If you feel you need any of these features then LastPass Premium might be a good value for you. At $36 per year, it is not outrageously expensive but I don’t have a need for any of the above features so I get awesome value from the free subscription.
The Family subscription might be more attractive as it includes all of the above features but also includes licenses for 6 people for only $48 per year. This would be the plan I would go with if I were needing to use any of the premium features.