By KIT EATON
THE recent revelation that the account information of at least 500 million Yahoo users was stolen in 2014 was a big reminder that we all need to be smarter about our digital security. That includes our smartphones, which are increasingly the repositories for all sorts of information about our digital lives.
Turning our smartphones into personal data fortresses requires the use of strong passwords — and never using the same password for different services. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps that can help you remember all those passwords.
Dashlane, which is free to download for iOS and Android devices, is an excellent secure password system. The app, which is essentially a digital strongbox for all your online keys, has just one master password to remember. After you enter that password (which should be very strong), you have access to all your other passwords inside the app.
This means people can move beyond using easy-to-remember passwords like “123456” and use longer, more complex passwords that are more difficult for hackers to crack. To help, Dashlane has a password generator that users can customize, for instance by varying the length of passwords or specifying whether they should include nonletter symbols.
Dashlane can automatically update passwords, a feature that is compatible with many websites including IFTTT and Kickstarter. You can also create your own passwords, and Dashlane will analyze how hacker-resistant they are and flag any passwords that have already been used elsewhere.
Dashlane has a built-in browser that is designed to be secure, so people can shop or bank online with fewer worries about having their information compromised. It also allows users to securely share passwords with others — a useful feature for anyone with shared accounts.
An upgraded version, which costs $40 a year, provides extras like cloud-based backup of your password information and secure sharing of passwords between different devices.
If Dashlane’s price and more businesslike look do not suit you, try Keeper, free for iOS and Android. Like Dashlane, Keeper is a secure password vault with an automatic password generator and other features.
But Keeper also has a more graphics-rich interface, which includes useful popover hints and tips when you start using the app. And it lets you file your passwords in folders to help separate personal and work accounts. The folders can also hold other information, such as bank account numbers, that you do not want to be accessible outside the app.
As an additional layer of security, Keeper has an Apple Watch and Android Wear connection that lets you log in via your smartwatch. The idea is that if someone steals your phone, they probably will not have your watch too.
Keeper lacks Dashlane’s automatic password update feature, and some of Keeper’s more powerful features, such as cloud-based backup and cross-device password syncing, require upgrades that cost $10 and up.
Of course there are also a few well-established favorite apps in this category. The best known is 1Password. The app has a wide range of features apart from storing passwords, including storing credit card information and autofilling payment fields on online shopping sites. This app promises strong encryption to protect data even if you lose your smartphone, and it has an Apple Watch app so you can see password information on your wrist.
I’m not a fan of this app’s interface because I find it easy to lose my place in its menus. But 1Password is powerful and has free versions for Android and iOS. An upgraded version, with access to all its features, costs $10.
LastPass, a popular app for iOS and Android, is also worth trying. It acts as a secure vault for information like credit card numbers, and its jaunty interface makes the business of managing passwords seem less drab.
If you’re an Android user, have a look at KeePassDroid, too. This password manager is free and based on open-source architecture. It features strong encryption and its plain but functional interface make it seem less fussy than some of its competitors.
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