Quick: how many accounts do you have online? One? Ten? Fifty? Who knows, right? This is just how things are now. Whether you want to buy something online, watch a video, or do your school work, you have to have an account. This is fine and all, but it can start to become quite discomforting when you realize you’ve forgotten your password, username, or that you even have an account for that website all together. I, as of right now, have at least 58 accounts in my name floating around the internet, and I guarantee you I could not name them all from memory alone.
To help the students of the world keep their collective sanity, not to mention security, here are a couple ways to manage your internet presence.
1. A Password Manager — In This Case, Lastpass
Lastpass is one of the most helpful services I’ve used since the semester started, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It holds all of your passwords and account information for you, organizable by category (i.e., School, Social Media, Shopping), and has an extension/add-on for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer that will fill in your account information for you whenever you visit a saved site.
Ease: When on a personal computer with the LastPass extension installed, LastPass is ridiculously easy to use. Open your browser, log in, browse. That’s it. If you’re on a public computer, you log in to the LastPass website, and copy and paste passwords from your LastPass vault. Also, since most of my bookmarks are now in LastPass, look how clean my bookmarks bar is! Only my most visited websites get to share my screen space, now.
Security: This is my favorite part. For those of you with smartphones or an iPod touch, LastPass is compatible with Google Authenticator. This app basically syncs an algorithm up with LastPass, and both sites generate a new password every 60 seconds to this algorithm. When you log in to a computer you haven’t labeled as trusted, LastPass will require you to input the code generated by Google Authenticator. So basically, even if you steal my LastPass password, it’s worthless unless you also steal my phone. This is about as secure as it gets (within normal means), so enjoy the reassurance. If you want to know what other security tricks they’ve got up their sleeves, read about that here.
2. Password Tiers + Bookmark Folders
Since one of the worst things you can do is use the same password for every service, using password tiers is something I thought of a couple years ago to get around both the insecurity of 100% password repetition (find the actual word that is used for this, or see if saturation is good enough) and the annoyance of remembering tons of passwords.
To do this, you should list out all of the accounts you have, and separate them by level of importance or subject matter. I had 4 different password tiers that I think would prove suitable for most uses: social media, important services (such as shopping, banking, and things like Dropbox or Evernote that are so important that I would be screwed without them), school websites, and sites without SSL encryption (or sites with just “http://” instead of “https://” in the login page URL, which are less secure for password sending). The benefit of this is now that if a password is compromised, you´ll only have to change maybe 5 to 10 passwords instead of all of them.
Keeping track of this is pretty much the same as using the categorizations in LastPass, except with bookmark folders keeping track of all the websites you have an account on.
Ease: Well, the point of having tiers is that you can memorize 3-5 passwords instead of 50+, so it’s relatively simple if you can do that. However, if you ever have to change a tier’s password, you better make sure you change every site in the tier, or you’re going to be very inconvenienced when you let yourself forget the old password.
Security: It’s more secure than using the same password for every website. Separating things like Facebook from things like your online banking account is definitely essential, as things of such mixed importance should never have the same password. However, you still have the weakness of multiple sites with the same password, which isn’t as secure as what LastPass (or any other password manager) offers. Your information, your call.