The world has become an incredibly complex place, and online security is one of the areas where that complexity is felt the most by the most people. It’s not hard to fathom that many people feel overwhelmed and stressed about this issue. Especially when they think of all the different passwords they have to maintain and usually change periodically just so that they can do their daily tasks on the internet these days.
These days, passwords have to be strong, and they can’t be repeated, and one needs to be constantly changing them. Storing them in a text document on your hard drive or your phone, or, God forbid, on a cloud, represents a further security risk. People rightfully feel frustrated and overwhelmed by all the password requirements, and at the same time, they are still very worried about their online security.
How to solve the problem
Fortunately, there are alternatives that solve these problems, called “password managers”. Not surprisingly, they all have their strengths and weaknesses, and not all password managers have been created equal – not by a long shot. People need to know what their best options are in order to safely and securely keep track of what can often easily be dozens of different passwords and login credentials.
This article will help confused and worried users across the globe make some sense of it all, and figure out how to make their way across this complex landscape.
What is the best password manager of 2021?
With over 50+ password managers tested by Securifer, the number one at the moment is NordPass. It hits right on every single criteria that we have – security, price, features, reputation, user interface, just to name a few. It is the absolute best password manager you can get, and the best part is that they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
1Password excels in areas where many other password managers fail – usability. No one wants to spend 30+ minutes watching a tutorial when all you want to do is safely store your passwords. With several awards to back it up, 1Password continues to top our list of the best password managers.
For the people who are really adamant about their security, Dashlane makes an excellent choice. Features like SSO (single sign-on) make it easier and more secure than ever to use. Dashlane is also very popular for company solutions and is quickly establishing itself as the most featured-packed password manager.
With one of the best online reputations, LastPass could not get left out of this list. Featured packed, good UI, and a reasonable price tag. A free account comes with a 30-day free trial which is the perfect opportunity to see if it fits your needs.
While Bitwarden advertises itself as a password manager for businesses, recently it has quickly become the internet’s favourite password manager. Open source, strong security, and very cheap. Simply put, one of the best password managers.
Comparison of all password managers
The average rating score is determined by fetching online review scores and calculating the average score.
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Table of Contents
Why a password manager?
As we have alluded to above, it’s not a good idea to just leave your sensitive information lying around your hard drive unencrypted in some random Word document or sticky note. Hackers, if they do bother to look, know exactly to look for these sorts of documents right away.
If it’s on your mobile device, or if your computer connects to the internet via Wi-Fi, the situation is even worse. And, unfortunately, if you leave such information somewhere on a cloud, it’s even worse again.
In other words, thank heavens for password managers. They allow you to keep your password data handy without having to memorize it (a practically impossible task with multiple strong passwords), or write everything down with pen and paper in a notebook.
How password managers work
A password manager does exist on a cloud as well. However, a password manager uses what is known as a digital vault to store your passwords; this is a major difference here.
When your passwords are stored with a password manager, they are not wide out in the open like they would be if you just uploaded a file to Google Drive, for example. They are encrypted with state-of-the-art encryption, and the clouds managed by password managers have their own private security.
Security with regular penetration testing
Many of these platforms are regularly penetration tested, which means that people who really know what they are doing constantly try to hack into the site. They then write reports on what happened. If they are successful, that means they have found a way in before hackers could, and the company plugs the hole immediately.
Not just secure, but also convenient
The added security of a dedicated password manager is matched only by the added convenience. A good password manager will allow you to synchronize your passwords across all your authorized devices. It completely eliminates the instances where you save a password on one device, and then need to use it on another and can’t remember where you originally saved it, etc.
No more repeating passwords
Also, since passwords are stored and recalled automatically, there is no longer an excuse for repeating passwords. You can quite easily store a unique password every time you need a password, and the password manager will take care of the rest for you.
Generally, the password manager will also generate a strong password for you whenever you need it, eliminating another layer of complexity for you and saving you potentially loads of time.
Are password managers free?
Most password managers will offer free versions with some sort of limitation on them. Almost always, this limitation takes the form of only being able to use the password manager with one device.
This particular restriction actually may be fine for some people, who, for example, don’t do anything sensitive on their phones at all and/or don’t leave home much. Just as an aside, most banks recommend you do your online banking from home with a computer and a physical Ethernet connection, by the way.
That’s not most of us, though
However, and having said that, most of us now have multiple devices, and need multiple strong passwords to be shared across these devices. That alone is usually worth the small price to pay to be able to fully use a password manager.
Honestly, if a password manager either saves you just once from the hassle of a lost password for something sensitive like online banking or if it saves you from being a victim of identity theft etc, it’s truly money well spent.
Why saving passwords in your browser is not a good idea
Most modern browsers, like Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, have built-in features these days which do what a password manager does. At least, that’s what it looks like on the surface. So, why is it not a good idea to rely on your browser to store passwords?
The answer, in short, is that a browser is a prime target for hackers. And, by the very nature of how a browser works, there are certain vulnerabilities when it comes to the data it stores.
Often, the passwords stored in your browser are tied to the main password for your device, which is also something that’s relatively easy to hack. Also, anybody who knows even a little about coding can also simply use the inspector window and, most of the time, they can wind up fishing out a password in seconds.
The worst part of all of this is that often there is no need for someone to proactively try and steal your data. Often, malware is capable of doing this all by itself without any human help. In fact, once again, your stored passwords in your browser are often one of the first things malware is looking for!
Deep dive into four password managers
Now, the case has been very strongly made for why everybody who is on the internet should be using a password manager. Let’s look at four of the best of them, which we have conveniently rounded up.
What follows is a list of what, in our determination, are the best password managers out there. These four products are truly at the head of the market in our opinion, and, more importantly, according to our research.
Our criteria for selecting these four products
We rigorously inspected the four different products, which are Last Pass, NordPass, 1Password, and Dashlane, looking at all aspects that would be important to you, the end-user.
The things that were mainly looked at were:
- The quality of the digital vault itself
- Good auto-generation of strong passwords
- Compatibility with two-step authentication, including hardware dongles or biometric authentication options for the very serious users out there
- Compatibility with a wide range of devices. Something of this nature really needs to run on almost anything and everything.
- Whether there is a limit on the number of passwords stored or not (in free or paid versions)
- Ease of use on multiple devices
- General user-friendliness
One other important note
These four password managers are not given in any particular order. While individual members of this review time all have their personal favourites, it is strongly felt that among these four excellent products, one’s own personal mileage will vary quite a bit in individual needs and wants.
For that reason, it’s important to not assume that the first password manager talked about is the best product out there, no matter what. We strongly encourage the reader to read all four of the following sections, and then make his or her mind up at the end.
LastPass is included here among the four options for many reasons. However, the main reason LastPass is of interest is that this is the program you can get the most out of for free.
This is, however, not to say that the paid version is not worth it. The security dashboard feature, for example, is a paid-only feature, and well worth the price of admission.
LastPass is a great entry-level password manager
The other really strong positive point to LastPass is its ease of use. Of the four products listed here, LastPass comes out on top for being super easy to get started with. One can literally, in a couple of minutes, be up and running with LastPass.
This makes LastPass a great option for people who have never used a password manager before, and want to get their feet wet. That is not to say that LastPass isn’t a serious password manager. Many people will have their needs perfectly met by LastPass. Some will even be fine with the free version.
Great tools still included
For example, even with the free version, LastPass will analyze your passwords for you (upon request) and suggest an improvement, identifying weak or duplicate passwords. This puts LastPass on the same level as the other three password managers mentioned in this article in that sense. LastPass also perfectly syncs all your devices up with no problem, according to our testing.
For all but the most demanding users, LastPass will happily fill the bill and provide you with a great and easy-to-use password manager.
Nord is a name most people know from the world-famous and excellent VPN of the same name. They have decided to branch out into password managing with their brand new NordPass, having just been released in 2019.
Good points of NordPass
NordPass has all the basics that the other three password managers talked about in this article have. It works on multiple devices and syncs them. It has great standard support for two-factor authentication. It has a strong password generator and imports your other passwords. It will check your current passwords and offer improvements to them.
The VPN experience counts
What really sets NordPass apart has to do with Nord as a company itself. Nord’s experience in the area of VPNs really shows in NordPass. For example, NordPass counts on Nord’s own absolutely excellent end-to-end encryption, which is truly cutting edge. They also have a data breach scanner which works a little like an anti-virus, but it’s much less clumsy. Finally, an independent firm audits Nord’s security scheme.
The best customer service
NordPass takes advantage also of Nord’s stellar customer service. They have a live chat where they can walk you through issues in real-time. Nord definitely is head and shoulders above its competition in this area as well.
One negative of NordPass
NordPass as of the date of this writing lacks one feature we would like to see implemented soon, which is support for security keys. We think this is a “key” feature which would make a good product so much better, considering their other unique innovations. Hopefully, the good folks at Nord will take notice and address this issue sooner than later.
The thing that we liked most about 1Password right off the bat was its ease of use and its stellar user interface. This software is seriously a pleasure to get around. Directions are also clear, concise, and time-saving.
1Password has a feature called the “Watchtower”, which is a part of the problem that reviews every password ever entered into 1Password, and offers advice on how to improve them. It also does things such as search for and notifies you of duplicate passwords. The Watchtower also will advise you every time it finds an old password (you can define “old” however you want), or a weak password.
Self-contained, secure, and smooth
1Password operates as a standalone app, which is ideal for security purposes since it is self-contained. The other nice feature of 1Password is that it is capable of acting in place of the normal password-saving features of your device, working the same way in which apps like Signal do for text messages. This is very convenient in phones especially.
Corollary to this, you can also install browser extensions in order to integrate your computers more with 1Password in the same way. It should be noted that the standalone app still has to be installed for this to work. The exception to this is if you are using Google Chrome.
Ideal for families and businesses
One other brilliant feature of 1Password is that it allows you to not only just store an unlimited amount of passwords, but you can also make an unlimited number of vaults as well. 1Password is, in fact, very heavily geared towards professional use, but it would also work well for the security-conscious family.
Free accounts if you qualify
Lastly, in an effort to give back to the community, if you can prove you are a journalist, activist, or politician, 1Password will give you a free account.
If you are one of those power users who want to have all the most serious security features you can get your hands on, Dashlane is probably the best option out of the four presented here.
Dashlane is actually not simply just an app or an extension, but rather a whole suite of apps, each with a different function. The apps in this suite all work together to keep your digital environment safe and secure.
Dashlane’s extra features
Another nice feature of Dashlane is the outstanding import tool for bringing your passwords in from your various devices and browsers. This process could be painful and convoluted, but Dashlane makes it a snap. Also, Dashlane does include with it a bundled VPN, which is handy and means you don’t have to pay for a separate VPN.
It will cost you, however
You will have to be prepared to pay for these excellent features, however. Dashlane charges $60 per year per individual account or $90 for a family account for up to five users sharing a household. This makes it the most expensive option listed here.
There is a severely limited free version, which caps you at 50 passwords. Since almost everybody has more than 50 passwords in 2021, this could be considered a de facto trial version of the product, to be honest.
Whichever one of these products you eventually choose, you will be guaranteed to be happy and satisfied with them. Honestly, they are all excellent products.
The important thing is that you, the reader, understand the pressing need for getting a password management program, and take action by choosing one of them and getting it running ASAP. The sooner the better.
What is a password manager?
A password manager is a type of software designed to store and manage login credentials. Typically, these passwords are stored in an encrypted database and can only be unlocked with a master password.
How to use a password manager?
You set a master password, and then start storing every other password you have in the password manager. Instead of having to remember multiple passwords, you will just use your master password and get automatically logged in.
How does a password manager work?
They store your login information and help you log in automatically, with the help of a master password.
How safe is Google password manager?
It is not as safe as other password managers with cutting-edge encryption, but still good enough for the everyday user.
Why wouldn’t you use a password manager?
The one disadvantage with password managers is that if someone uncovered your master password, they would unlock every other password you have.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Evan Stockton - Author
Evan Stockton is the proud publisher and founder of Securifer.com where he mainly manages publishing, editing and fact-checking. Evan is an expert Cybersecurity-researcher, and has written many articles for several large IT-centered publications.