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 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?