10 June 2014
You can have strong passwords and remember them across various devices!
Regardless of where you read just now, there seems to be article after article being published about the latest web site or service that has had its users’ passwords hacked or stolen. We are being constantly reminded to change our passwords with something that’s strong, not easy to guess, must be a minimum of 8 characters, with a mix of numbers and upper and lower case letters. To make it more complicated, we are advised not to use the same password for different services. So, how do we cope with the password conundrum?
Most recently, I read a piece that suggested using a password across different services but changing the first letter of the password to match the first letter of the service name. For instance, for Facebook, the password would be Fpassword, whilst for Google, it would be Gpassword. A different password for different services. Simple. However, that’s the problem. It’s too simple and wouldn’t take long for a hacker, or an automated password cracking tool, to pick up on. The same goes for adding a dollar symbol or exclamation mark to the end of your favourite password.
It’s a growing problem with more and more logins requiring secure and complex passwords. A few years back, I began looking at various tools and services that are offered freely around the Internet that provide a secure way of generating passwords and storing them. My first experience was with Passpack – a web based password manager. It served its purpose at the time, allowing me to generate and store up to 100 passwords free of charge. You’ll be amazed how quickly you run up 100 secure passwords. This was back in the day when the only services that required you to log in with a username and password were accessed via a computer. Probably the only computer that you used too. And, that was fine for logging in to Passpack’s web site, selecting the password for the service you required, copying it and then pasting it in a new tab for the actual web site that required it. Roll forward to today, when suddenly those services are used across my desktop, my laptop, my tablet and my smartphone and suddenly Passpack feels a little out of touch with everyday use.
Next, came LastPass, which aimed to make logins better with a browser extension. It worked, most of the time, by identifying which web sites you were logging in to, prompting you to save your login details and then automatically filling this information in for you the next time you accessed the web site. Free, compatible with Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, it seemed like a good choice. Except, it still didn’t quite meet the needs of accessing services via a smartphone. And, the user interface is horrible (personally).
And this is where, Dashlane, comes in to a league of its own, apart from one snag – price. If you only use one computer, it’s completely free. Otherwise, to access your log in details and keep them in sync across your various devices, you have to upgrade to the Premium package for just under $30 per year. At this moment in time, this works out at just under £18 per year, which is nothing for the convenience. Dashlane is available across Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Apple Safari for Windows and Mac, as well as Android and iOS. If you update a password on your Windows PC, it will refresh and update on your iPhone.
I have been using Dashlane for about 18 months now and I have to say, it’s worth every penny. Aside from the password that I must use to log in to Dashlane, I don’t know a single password for anything else. Whether it’s my e-mail, Facebook, online banking or BBC Good Food account, Dashlane takes care of it. What if my Dashlane account is hacked? Only devices that I have used Dashlane from before can log in and access my stored passwords. Each new device, requires a code, that is e-mailed to me and must be entered to be authenticated first. Should I lose my laptop or smartphone, I can log in to the Dashlane web site from another computer and disable the lost device, preventing anyone else from using it to access my Dashlane account.
So, how easy is it? Ridiculously so. Once you’ve signed up with Dashlane, you simply download and install the software on to your device. For the purposes of this article, I’ll discuss using it on a computer. Once it’s installed, Dashlane will detect which web browsers are present on your system and will install the browser extensions. I use Mozilla Firefox, so in the top-right corner of my browser, sits the Dashlane button. Whenever I arrive at a web site requiring a log in, if the green light on this button is not already showing, by clicking the button, I can log in to Dashlane. From there on, the green light indicates that Dashlane is already signed in and ready. My log in details for each web site known to Dashlane will appear. For web sites with multiple accounts, for instance, I have a personal account and a business account with eBay, Dashlane will prompt for which account I would like to log in with. Once I am signed in, if I update or change the password, Dashlane will recognise this and will check whether to save the password.
When it comes to registering with a new service, again, Dashlane can take care of this. Apart from filling in common fields for me, such as my name and e-mail address, Dashlane will prompt to generate a secure password there and then. Using the browser extension button, I can customise the generated password, making it longer or shorter, to include numbers or symbols, or to make it pronounceable, if it’s something I would maybe like to remember. Another useful feature, is the option to save notes about a particular log in. This comes in handy for web sites that ask for additional security features after logging in, such as a memorable word. You can store this sort of information securely in the notes.
Using Dashlane on iOS or Android
What attracted me to Dashlane was its compatibility across different devices. Having a secure log in for Facebook protects your account from being abused by others. At the same time, most of us want to access our social media networks on our smartphones and no one fancies typing in a 26-character password on a touch screen device. Dashlane doesn’t work quite the same way on Android or iOS, simply because these platforms don’t allow browser extensions in the same way a Windows or Mac system will.
However, you can still download the Dashlane app to your smartphone or tablet. The app comes complete with its own browser. You could choose to search for a log in, then follow the options to open the web site in the browser and Dashlane will automatically complete the log in details for you. Or, for those times when you need to log in to third party apps, you can copy the password and then paste it in to the app that requires it, or in to your preferred browser.
In the end, the small price of around £18 per year, seems like nothing to guarantee strong passwords that are difficult to guess, hard to crack and conveniently available across each device that I use frequently. Not knowing your passwords might seem a bit daunting to begin with but there is peace of mind when you realise how simple software like Dashlane can manage these credentials securely, virtually eliminating the need to worry the next time you read an article advising that you change your password. Now, it is only a short click away and does only take a few seconds to do. And you don’t need to write it down.
This is an independent review of Dashlane Premium and is not sponsored or endorsed by Dashlane Inc. in any way. The prices quoted in this article are correct at the time of publication and currency conversions are estimated conversions based on XE currency calculator.