Choose your password management systems carefully

August 14, 2013 

The Internet has undoubtedly made our lives easier, and some would even say better. It is a bit of a double edged sword however, as we have seen an increase in the number of security breaches and hacks exposing our information. One way to minimize data being exposed or stolen is to use different passwords for every site. While this is advisable and fine in theory, it can be a pain to actually keep track of all of your different passwords in reality. That's where a password management system can help. The next decision is what type of password management system you should use.

Below is a brief overview of the four types of password management system you can use.

• Cloud or Internet-based

These systems are usually cloud based and accessed through an app or browser plugin. Apps ordinarily store your passwords, or generate one to use, and will automatically apply this when you visit a site that requires a password. These systems are great for breaking the one password habit; however, because they store all of your passwords in one place, they could become a target for hackers.

• Cloud or Internet-based with two-factor authentication

The next step up from the cloud-based password management system is one that supports two-factor authentication. Your passwords are still stored in the cloud, but you will need to provide another piece of information before you can access sites. The interesting thing is that many of the cloud based password systems actually offer this in their premium offerings. So, not only do you get better password protection, but it's with the same system -- meaning you likely won't have to switch. The cloud based systems are a good idea if you use more than one system on a regular basis and if you work from outside the office.

• Computer-based

Computer-based password management systems are similar to the cloud versions, only the passwords are stored on your computer, and accessed using a master password. Because many hackers usually don't go after individual hard

drives -- they have to get through your network and then find the program and try to break the password -- the chances of your passwords being exposed are minimized. The only problem with systems like these is that you normally have to log in for the service to work. If you forget to log out and someone walks by, they will be able to access everything. However, for the manager who wants a secure system, this is a better option than the cloud based versions.

• USB-based

There are a number of USB devices that have a smart card in them that can store passwords. When you plug in the USB to your computer, the software on the USB can input the stored passwords when needed. These devices are typically more expensive, with some costing as much as $100, but they offer the highest amount of security because you keep your passwords with you. The main downside to these devices is that they are usually about the size of a standard USB stick. This means that they are easier to lose, making getting your passwords back even tougher.

David Spire, president and CEO of United Systems, holds multiple professional certifications, including Microsoft's Small Business Specialist. He can be reached at 941.721.6423 or by e-mail at

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