Protect your ID with a password manager
Once upon a time the sole digital bogeyman people had to guard against was the computer virus: malicious software that could infect your PC, causing potentially serious problems. Viruses never went away - in fact, malware is a bigger criminal industry than ever - but these days, with so many of us storing so much of our personal data in the cloud, we're faced with an even more intimidating technological dilemma: digital identity theft, whereby hackers and scammers breach people's online services (such as email, social media and cloud storage), with the usual goal of accessing financial passwords and accounts.
So how can you guard against it? One of the easiest defences is to use a manager that can generate and keep track of a virtually limitless number of unique and hard-to-crack passwords for all the sites you visit. It takes only a short amount of time to set up, and the peace of mind alone makes the effort worthwhile. Install one today and don't be a statistic!
What is it? 1Password How much? $64.99 (desktop) Pros: One of the biggest commercial players in the password manager field, with desktop apps available for Windows and Mac, plus mobile versions for iOS and Android (which conveniently sport a new "freemium" model). It's a mature, feature-rich offering with lots of vault options, security assessments and more. Also available in a discounted Win + Mac bundle. Cons: Upfront cost steeper than competition for desktop apps. Visit agilebits.com
What is it? iCloud Keychain How much? Free Pros: If you're a Mac or iOS user and you like the idea of simple, secure password management but don't want to buy or download any new apps, we have good news. Apple's own built-in password manager feature, iCloud Keychain, is already available in Safari (provided you're running iOS 7/Mavericks or later). Cons: Not as feature-rich as its rivals, and unfortunately only available for users of Apple devices. Visit apple.com/au
What is it? LastPass How much? Free (Premium $US12 a year) Pros: Despite a much-publicised hack in June, LastPass remains one of the most popular password managers. A reason for its success is it's entirely free on desktop. Additional features - including syncing with mobile apps - are unlocked via a subscription to LastPass Premium. It's also got the most comprehensive mobile support (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry). Cons: Subscription costs will add up. Visit lastpass.com
Peter Dockrill is Money's tech columnist.