Passwords and How To Manage Them

Passwords are an awful reality of using computers these days. Many phones, and even some computers like Apple's new Macbook Pro, have fingerprint scanners now. But passwords are going to be something we have to deal with for a long time. Unfortunately they're also the weakest point in everyone's personal security.

Multiple accounts means multiple passwords

The big problem is that most of us have a ton of accounts all over the place, so to reduce the risk of being unable to login, many people resort to reusing the same password for every account. Some people might be thinking "Well I have a good password, so what's wrong with reusing it?" The problem is that while even if your password was 100% impossible to crack (it isn't) it becomes completely useless if it gets out. This means that once someone has your password for one account, they've got the password for all of them, and you're not the only keeper of your password, the sites you use that password on also have a responsibility to keep it safe, and there are many incidents where sites have stored these irresponsibly and the passwords have gotten out. The most secure way to protect your accounts is by using a different password on every site you use.

The only secure password is the one you can't remember

If you can remember it, it's likely not a very secure password. Computers are very good at repeating patterns, and humans are very bad at remembering things that don't have patterns. This means that your passwords need to have as much randomness or "entropy" as possible. It should also be as long as possible. The longer the password is, the harder it is for a computer to crack by guessing every possible combination of characters a keyboard can type.

Another factor keeps you in control

Most websites today offer an extra layer of account security often called Two Factor Authentication, Two Step Authentication, or Multi-factor Authentication. What this means is that not only do you need your password to log into your account, but a second code that can be obtained in a variety of ways. Most of the time you can receive a text to a registered phone number, sometimes they will deliver the code over an audio phone call, and most offer the ability to use an app like Authy to generate the code on your smartphone. Using Two Factor Authentication means that not only does somebody have to steal your account credentials, but also your phone in order to login.

Password Management

Using a different, strong password on every site would be hard or maybe even impossible for you to remember. This is why I highly recommend using a password manager app. They store all of your account credentials, generate strong passwords, and even type them in for you at sites you've been to before. There are also many options on the market. I haven't used them all, since there are many, but I'd like to go over the services I am familiar with so you can at least see some of the options out there.

iCloud Keychain (Free)

Apple offers a decent password management tool for free with iCloud. It securely stores passwords for you and syncs them across each Apple device you've logged into with your iCloud account. It will generate strong passwords for you automatically and type them in for you while using safari. It will also remember things like credit cards and form information and type them for you as well. Pretty standard stuff for a password manager. The big downsides are that it doesn't work with Windows, Linux, or Android, and only supports the Safari web browser. This means that if you regularly use a device other than an iPhone, iPad, or Mac it can be hard t access your accounts.
 

Pros

  • Free with iCloud
  • Part of iOS & macOS Setup Assistant, making it easy to setup and use.

Cons

  • Doesn't support Windows, Linux, or Android devices
  • Doesn't support 3rd part web browsers

LastPass (Free, $1/mo)

LastPass is a fully cloud based password manager. It stores all your account securely online so that you can access them from any device so long as you have your Master Password. It also stores notes and form information that supports attachments so you can save pictures of important documents online securely. It comes in at the low price of free that includes syncing to unlimited devices. It supports Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as iOS and Android. It also supports all the major web browsers on each platform. It's very easy to use, and has become a lot more attractive in the last several years. LastPass also offers a great 2FA iOS app that has a notification when you need a code, and some sites will let it type in the code for you.
 

Pros

  • Low barrier to entry
  • Good cross-platform support
  • TouchID support on iOS
  • Quick syncing

Cons

  • Not the prettiest interface (See 1Password)

1Password ($2.99/mo)

I've actually been using 1Password for several years. It's got a great iOS and Mac app that sync in their new subscription service. 1Password recently switched from a license-based software purchase to a subscription service that includes the software for free. This is a great option, and the license is still available if you ask for it, but it's on the pricier end of the password manager spectrum. They also have Android and Windows apps that can be synced with as well. While I can't speak to the Android app, the Windows version is a lot clumsier than the iOS and Mac versions. It gets the job done, but still has a long way to go. 1Password definitely has the most attractive interface. It's very sleek and has a ton of different categories to use and has a great tagging system that I don't take advantage of, unfortunately.
 

Pros

  • Really nice interface
  • TouchID on iOS (and soon macOS)
  • Great support
  • Tons of organization options

Cons

  • More expensive than alternatives
  • Windows app not as good as Mac and iOS versions
  • Slow syncing in my experience

Wrap Up

The most important thing here isn't which option you pick, but that you start using a password manager. Create a good master password; the below Jonathan Mann song has some great tips on doing this. Then go around and change all of your passwords to something generated by your password manager. While you're there, check if that service offers Two Factor Authentication and turn that on. If you'd like a free month of LastPass premium click here.

Online security is one of the best things you can do for yourself in this computer age, it won't take up too much time, and will save you a ton of headaches in the future. Go ahead and make this change for yourself and let me know in the comments below! Thanks, Dylan Juran

How To Prepare Your iPhone for the Worst

Yesterday I received a call from my mom, asking me to help her with her iPhone. She said she had been locked out of it and needed help getting back into it. Her password had somehow changed without her knowledge, and since she'd tried a couple times, she was locked out for 5 minutes, and every time she tried the timer got longer. I drove to her house to figure this out, and unfortunately she had no iCloud backups, and the password she was using definitely wasn't working. We had to wipe the iPhone and set it up like new. I don't know what it was that caused her password to change for no reason, and some poking around I did on her iPad indicated that it actually hadn't changed, but still wasn't working along with her thumbprint for Touch ID. This could happen to you too. Maybe your password won't change for seemingly no reason, but you could drop your phone in some water, it could be stolen or lost, or many other terrible things that happen to people's phones all the time. Here are the things my mom could have been doing to make her situation better.
 

Backing Up to iCloud


If you already have an iCloud account, you should be backing up your iPhone to iCloud. You can do this in Settings > iCloud > Backup.

Once this is turned on, your iPhone should back up automatically every time it is connected to wi-fi and plugged into power for a long enough time, usually about 30 minutes to an hour should be good enough.

I would recommend making sure your phone is connected to power and wi-fi every night before you go to bed. This way, the worst amount of time you could lose is the current day, and you can restore from the last night's backup should something have gone wrong.

If you can't get to power for a long enough time, or you want to just do an extra backup just in case, you can go back into the settings for iCloud and tap the "Back Up Now" button.

If you'd prefer not to backup to iCloud, you can manually backup to iTunes instead. This also allows you to encrypt your backup if you're more security conscious.

To backup to iTunes, just plug your iPhone into your computer and click on the little iPhone icon near the top of the iTunes window and under Backups choose This computer. If you also want to encrypt your backup check the box Encrypt iPhone backup. Then click Back Up Now.
 

Using iCloud Photo Library


One of the things people care most about losing is their photos. While iCloud backup will save your photos as well, you can have a second layer of defense against losing them by storing your photos in iCloud.

In Settings > iCloud > Photos you can turn on iCloud Photo Library. This saves all of the photos you take to iCloud automatically the next time your phone connects to Wi-fi. This has the added benefit that you can view your photos from any of your iCloud connected devices.

If you'd rather not use iCloud Photo Library, Google, Microsoft, and Dropbox all offer camera upload features in their apps for saving your photos. Google will store all your photos for free and even makes them more easily searchable and sometimes upgrades them in fun ways, but compresses them a little bit; OneDrive and Dropbox have limits that you can pay to expand, just like iCloud.

Read More About Apple Backup Options

Syncing Important Data with iCloud


iCloud doesn't just store your photos and backups online, it also allows you to sync your Contacts, Calendars, Reminders, and other items to other devices. This is another layer of protection because on top of the syncing with all your devices that it normally does, it also serves as an additional layer of backup for those items. You'll also be able to see all those items from iCloud.com from any internet connected device.

Simply go into Settings > iCloud and turn on all the switches for syncing to iCloud. After that, all your things will sync to iCloud.

If you're not an iCloud user, many of the sync features work with most email services too. You can find these sync features to enable in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Your Email Account

Hopefully nothing bad ever happens to your phone, but if you've done the things I suggest in this article, you shouldn't have to worry that all your pictures are gone forever when your iPhone flies out of your pocket while you're riding the Batman ride at Six Flags.

Thank you for reading,
Dylan Juran