LastPass—Your Strong Password Solution

The Last Password You’ll Have to Remember. Photo: LastPass

Recent news reports are filled with stories about personal information, including credit card numbers, being hacked and stolen. Often, the reports include tips and suggested actions you should take to secure your data. While the types of theft going on at Target, and more recently Home Depot, are out of your control, there are clearly some steps you can take to lower the risk of having your data stolen. If you are using the same password to access multiple sites and accounts, and if that password is not as strong as it should be, I encourage you to read on and consider using LastPass to manage your passwords.

Let’s face it, I was as guilty as the next person about using the same weak password over and over again to access online shopping and banking sites. GeekMom Natania gave us some tips last fall about protecting our personal identity. I inserted one number into an 8-character word that I could easily remember, and I called that a password. Although, the password was accepted by most sites as a valid password, I kept seeing warnings that my password wasn’t strong enough. I knew I should start using a stronger password containing capital letters, special characters, more numbers, and even spaces, but how was I supposed to remember something like that? Even if I could remember one stronger password, how could I switch the passwords I use for all the sites I access to use unique strong passwords? My head was spinning, and I continued on hoping I wouldn’t be effected by my repeated weak password use.

But what if  I only had to remember one really strong password for a tool, and then I could use that tool to generate and remember strong passwords to every other site I access? Well, that’s what LastPass provides. Sold!

About a month ago, my guy, Don, started using a password management product called LastPass after he learned about it by listening to a podcast from The Tech Guy—Leo Laporte. Leo interviewed security expert, Steve Gibson, who highly recommended LastPass for managing passwords. Don promised me he would set up LastPass to manage his passwords first, and if he was satisfied, then he’d let me know to go install it. It didn’t take long before he was ready to tell me that LastPass was working well for him and to encourage me to implement it.

From start to finish, it took me about 2.5 hours to switch the majority of my passwords over to LastPass management. Even though that seems like a large chunk of time, I felt my migration went smoothly and quickly. Just make sure to give yourself a few hours of uninterrupted time. No one wants to be in the middle of changing passwords while there are a lot of distractions going on.

Initially, I installed LastPass on my Windows 8 PC. LastPass works on most platforms, operating systems, and browsers, although I recommend starting out on your PC or Mac and then rolling out LastPass to your other devices (e.g. phones and tablets). I already used Chrome to manage my passwords, so when LastPass started for the first time on my PC, it asked me if I’d like to automatically put the passwords it found on my hard drive into what LastPass calls the Vault. I replied, “yes,” and a few minutes later LastPass had access to all my passwords, user ids, and the sites I access. I picked a few sites, and verified that I could correctly log in. In a few cases, I had to correct the email address being used for the user id. I changed email accounts a few years back, and some of the data on my hard drive still had the old email address. LastPass also asked me if I’d like to delete the password data from my hard drive, but I said no. I knew I could take that step later if desired. Plus, I planned to change all my passwords anyway.

At this point, you could stop and take a break, but you really haven’t gained any additional security protection. LastPass is just managing the same weak passwords that were already in use before you installed it. I went on to use LastPass to log me back into each of the sites it was managing for me in the Vault. Then I navigated to the Change Password section of my online account. I used LastPass to generate a new strong password, and then I saved the information on both the site and back in the LastPass Vault. Easy! Before long, all my passwords were unique and strong!

LastPass Change Password Screen Sample Photo: LastPass
Sample LastPass Password Generation Screen Photo: LastPass

LastPass provides a Chrome extension, as well as extensions for all the other major browsers, that will help to automatically fill in your passwords when you log into websites. I have found this extension to be very helpful as well, and I recommend that you install the right one for your browser.

After I was totally happy with how LastPass was configured on my PC, I set out to enable LastPass on my iPhone, Galaxy Tab 3, and iPad 2. I started out by going to the App Store or Google Play Store and downloading the LastPass for Premium application. While it is free to use LastPass on your PC or Mac, it will cost you $1 a month to create a LastPass Premium account and use LastPass across all your devices. I think it’s worth it! As I invoked LastPass on each device, I put in my LastPass password and automatically had access to the same Vault as I have on my PC.

The first thing I did on my iPhone was try to log into Facebook. Of course since I had changed my Facebook password, I was no longer logged in. So how did I log in? Well I brought up the LastPass application on my phone, found Facebook in the list of websites managed by the Vault, and selected it. I was given the opportunity to view my Facebook password or to copy it to the clipboard. I chose the clipboard option and then navigated back to the Facebook login screen and pasted the password into the password field. In no time at all, I was logged into Facebook, and I never had to type the long password or view it on my screen. I did the same thing for my Gmail, Amazon, and eBay accounts. Once I completed the process on my iPhone for the majority of my password-protected logins, I went over to my Galaxy Tab 3 and iPad 2 and repeated the process. I was impressed with how well this process worked across devices and operating systems.

The information on the LastPass website is very helpful, including tips in its “Getting Started” section. LastPass also includes a “Form Fill Profile” and allows you to share select passwords with other LastPass users. For example, there are a few websites that Don and I want to share the same login information for, and LastPass will make that easy for us.

So far I’ve had no regrets about converting to LastPass. With all of the news articles lately about personal information being stolen, isn’t it about time that you take your password protection to the next level?

OtterBox Agility Tablet System Offers All-In-One Protection

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Image: OtterBox

Tablets are wonderfully useful devices, but they’re also expensive so it’s important to protect them from damaging mishaps. The challenge is to find a case that does all of the things you want it to do while protecting your device. This is no small challenge, but the OtterBox Agility System combines multiple pieces that function together to keep your tablet protected while improving its functionality.

The OtterBox Agility System is available for multiple tablets including the iPad 2/3/4 and Air, iPad Mini with retina display, Galaxy Note 8, Galaxy Note 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 3. I tested the system on our iPad 3 so all information and pricing is based on that system. Let’s start with why I keep calling it a system and not simply a case.

There are multiple pieces to the OtterBox Agility System, and they all work off of the Agility Shell ($39.95) which is the foundation for the system. Think of this as the kind of sturdy case you likely already associate with OtterBox. It protects your device soundly by putting a hard, thick, plastic shell around the tablet. It has a lip that extends above the surface, which is wonderful since this means when it gets put down roughly on its face, the screen won’t scratch.

Image: OtterBox

That last bit doesn’t sound like a big deal, but that’s a make or break feature as far as I’m concerned. Don’t believe me? Just wait until your child decides to put your tablet face down on a driveway or bricks or cement. Better yet, wait until you drop it and it bounces onto the driveway before landing face down. Yeah, that little raised edge is a lifesaver.

The plus side to this case is that it’s solid and protects well, but the drawback is that it’s on the heavy side. If lightweight protection is at the top of your list, then this could be an issue. The weight is due partly to how protective it is, making it a case that feels like it will genuinely give your tablet a fighting chance, and partly to the fact that this is the foundation to a larger, interlocking system.

That system all revolves around a magnet built into the back of the Agility Shell. This is what connects the shell to the other system components and is the heart of what makes the whole system so darn good.

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Image: OtterBox

You could just stay with the Agility Shell, but you can add three different styles of folios that add extra protection, covering the touchscreen and functioning as stands for easier use. The base folio is simply the Agility Folio ($49.95) which is a very lightweight folio with a suede-like finish and two stand positions. It attaches to the magnet on the back of the shell and folds around to protect the touchscreen.

The idea of having just a magnet attaching the folio to the shell might be a little disconcerting, but this magnet means business. I opened the folio, let my iPad dangle from the end of it, and even shook it while it was hanging there and it didn’t come apart. Of course, I’m not recommending you do this every day, but it does add to peace of mind that the folio and shell aren’t going to come apart on a whim.

The next folio up is the Agility Portfolio ($69.95) which has a more professional leather finish and folds completely around the tablet. It looks snazzier and has a multi-position stand and is the one you’d likely want if you’re at a client site and want to make a bit of an impression.

Although this one looks nicer and offers some extra protection and extra stand positions, I preferred the basic Agility Folio. It did the job while still being lightweight and easily slipped into luggage pockets during a summer filled with a lot of travel. The Agility Portfolio likely won’t see as much use, although those who find themselves using their tablets frequently during business situations may prefer its more professional look.

The third folio is the Agility Deluxe Folio (Coming Soon) which I did not test, but is worth mentioning since it is a part of the system. It adds on the other two cases by providing storage for things like headphones, a keyboard, and whatever other random bits you need when you’re on the go.

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Image: OtterBox

The last piece of the system is mounting devices. There’s the Agility Wall Mount ($29.95) which you adhere permanently to a surface and allows you to snap your tablet in place, again with the built-in magnet. Anyplace you want to have easy access to your tablet is an ideal spot for this wall mount. Put it in the kitchen to have your tablet at the ready for recipes, or even a bathroom mirror or office wall.

For less permanent mounting, there’s the Agility Dock ($49.95) and Agility Power Dock ($99.95). I did not test the Power Dock, which powers both your tablet and two other devices at the same time. It looks to be very similar to the Agility Dock, just with the addition of charging. I did test the Agility Dock and this is my preferred method of the various mounting and docking systems.

The magnet locks in securely so you don’t have any fear of it falling off of the dock, and the dock can be adjusted to just the right angle. It’s also portable, so you don’t have to worry about it being stuck to the wall in the kitchen when you need it on your workbench in the garage. Just pick it up, and move it wherever you go.

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Image: OtterBox

The OtterBox Agility System offers a comprehensive system, not just a case, for protection of your tablet. You get a sturdy case, a choice of folios to protect your screen, and a variety of docking and mounting systems to make using your tablet a breeze and not break the bank in the process.

I received these products for review purposes.