Passwords: Convenience and Security: LastPass

laspasslogoI have over 200 different logins. I work from 6 different computers, with 4 different operating systems. I’ve tried a lot of different Password software to manage this mess. Nothing comes close to LastPass. I’ve been using it for the last 3 years, and it just got a lot better. Version 3 makes collecting login information and using it in the right place from almost anywhere as convenient as I have ever seen. Along with the convenience, I now have a different login for every site, something that in itself increases security. More….

I teach my students to use LastPass in my IT classes during the first week. They don’t get it at first, and some even seem annoyed by having to 1) sign up for an account, 2) download software to install on their laptop, and 3) install a plugin in their browser. It takes a long time, even with students who are pretty proficient in English. Mostly, though,they just don’t see the point.

But as we reach about week 6, and are signing up for our 8th or 9th website (we add at least one a week in my survey course), along with quick trips back to previous sites to pull out information, something clicks. The convenience is the first plus, the feature that they like the best. Me, I like the security.

Lastpass keeps all of your passwords in an encrypted file on their server that LastPass cannot read. Only people (you) with the Master Password (the last password you will ever need), can get to that file. The plugin puts a little logo in the top right of your browser. When you create an account somewhere, it asks if you want to save the login information. One click, yes. The next time you visit your site, LastPass remembers and fills in the user name and password. This works with Windows, OS X, iOS, and Linux with all three main browsers and probably more.

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Icing on the cake are the other features. I have saved secure notes (what was my daughter’s social security number?), and created really hard passwords. Because you don’t have to remember the passwords, you can set them to be longer and much more complex, mixing letters, caps, numbers and special characters. And since you only need it when you are online, it is always available (I have it on my cell phone.)

Having LastPass speeds up my access to sites, and keeps things secure. For over year I have been using 2-step verification with Google, a wonderful feature. WIth this new version of LastPass, I can (optionally) do the same thing to increase security for that all-important Master Password that unlocks all the others. Two-step verification requires you to enter a passcode from a different device (I use my cell phone) so someone in Thailand can’t log in (as they did to my bank account and took $30,000. I got it back) unless they can look at my cell phone. The code changes every 30 seconds. Having this 2nd step of entering one more number is a bit annoying at first, but it only happens every couple of weeks (that is what I have it set to). LastPass even allows you to block entire countries from accessing your account. There are many more settings that are possible, but for most people, it runs right out of the box. Those three steps (register, install, plugin) at the beginning may seem a time investment, but wait a few weeks. Those passwords accumulate and you never have to enter them in on the keyboard. LastPass even reminds me if I have used the same password in more than one place. Gradually, by changing passwords, they are all now unique.

Things are still a little clunky on iOS devices, especially if you like using Safari. LastPass works seamlessly with Chrome and almost as well with Explorer. If you ever can’t get it to work, just go to the website and sign in there, and you can access your passwords through the web on any browser, but you might have to copy and paste in a few cases. Fewer now that version 3 has arrived.

Oh, and the best thing. It’s free. I pay for Premium, but only get quicker support answers. I’ve never used support. But I’m a fan.

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