17 January 2020
If you’re online, you likely have dozens of accounts and passwords: bank, store, social media, subscriptions, travel, utilities, work-related, and more. To manage your logins, you need the best password manager for Mac!
Because your personally identifiable information (PII) has probably already been compromised!
To check, enter your email address on Have I been pwned? The site keeps a record of email addresses and passwords compromised through data breaches.
In just one breach - known as Collection #1 - over 770 million unique email addresses, and more than 21 million unique passwords were collected and published by hackers!
But you don’t have to be a victim!
That’s why you need strong, secure, and different passwords for each of your accounts.
But how do you create - and remember - dozens of different passwords with lower and upper case characters, numerics, and special characters?
You use a Mac password manager.
A password manager is a digital vault that generates and stores your passwords, along with other identifiers such as email addresses and usernames. When you’re prompted for your login credentials, the password manager auto-fills them for you, making access faster and simpler.
Password managers also make it easier to generate and use stronger passwords. Instead of using the same password for different sites because it’s easier to remember, a password manager allows you to create longer, more random, and different passwords for each account.
Savvy users use password managers to:
There are two main risks:
Yes. Keychain Access is an app that comes with macOS. It stores account information and passwords for all password-protected items, including email accounts, network servers, and websites.
As an encrypted container, KeyChain Access also allows you to store confidential information such as credit card numbers and personal identification numbers (PINs) for accessing your bank accounts.
KeyChain Access is integrated with iCloud keychain, enabling you to share keychains (your encrypted passwords) with your other devices. Signing in to iCloud with your Apple ID allows you to create and manage keychains on the device of your choice.
KeyChain Access offers both a command-line and GUI, with files stored in ~/Library/Keychains, /Library/Keychains/, and /Network/Library/Keychains/.
Having a backup is critical if something goes wrong. If you forget the master password for either Keychain Access or your password manager, you can still access all your data using the other app.
The most important thing to consider is the value of what you are protecting.
Once you’ve considered the potential impact, don’t hesitate to find and install a password manager that offers complete protection. With several free, open-source solutions available, some users rate password managers purely based on the cost or pricing model.
Don’t use price as the deciding factor. Focus on the company's reputation and the features you need to protect you and your Mac. If a free app gives you what you need, that’s great. But if you need something more, don’t go “cheap” and regret it later after you’ve been breached.
When you access a website, email account, network server, or another password-protected item, you may be given the option to remember or save the password. If you choose to save the password, it’s saved in your keychain, so you don’t have to remember or type your password every time.
What are your best choices? Here are five password managers our readers rave about:
Even though Bitwarden is a free, open-source password manager, the company uses professional auditors to try and break it. The process identifies vulnerabilities and allows the product to be one of the top-rated password managers available.
Browser extensions are available for all the major browsers, with the password vault easily synchronized between devices over the cloud using AES-256 encryption. Linking generated passwords to accounts isn’t as straightforward as it could be, but it’s still a tool worth looking at.
A free, open-source password manager for macOS, MacPass is light-weight and easy to use. Passwords are stored in a highly-encrypted Keepass database. Consisting of only one file, it’s easy to transfer the database between Macs.
Like other password managers, MacPass includes a sophisticated password generator together with an analysis tool indicating the strength of each password generated.
Buttercup is a free, cross-platform, open-source password manager with a simple, easy-to-use interface. It offers AES-256 encryption, generates strong passwords, and includes the option to choose where your password vault is stored.
Buttercup supports Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers, and runs on Linux, macOS, and Windows desktops, and Android and iOS mobile devices.
Enpass is a basic password manager for home users. The free version offers full access on desktops but is limited to 25 items on mobile devices. Enpass stores passwords locally, but can sync with other devices using your own third-party cloud storage.
Enpass does not offer security-grade encryption or two-factor authentication, but is a viable alternative to Google Authenticator. It allows you to store lots of personal information, but the data is static and cannot be used to populate web forms.
Don’t let the MacUpdate community’s rating of this password manager mislead you. 1Password is often rated as one of the best password managers available.
Sure, they may have changed their pricing model, but if you choose 1Password, it’s unlikely you’ll regret it.
Used by over 500,000 businesses, 1Password is designed for commercial use and includes the following features:
1Password’s audit report identifies weak passwords, ones used multiple times, and those that haven’t been changed for a while.
It also provides a full security audit that checks for pwned passwords (real-world passwords previously exposed in data breaches) and highlights sites where two-factor authentication is offered but not used.
Recovering your master password may be a challenge, and varies depending on the password manager you install. Refer to the vendor’s website for ways to recover it. In most instances, recovering a master password is not possible, and you’ll need to reset and reinstall, losing all of your data.
Note: Vendors providing good password managers DO NOT store your master password, so they can’t help you.
That’s why using Keychain Access along with another password manager is the best way to go. If you forget the master password for one, you can always access your credentials with the other.
Just don’t use the same master password for both!
Write your password down on a piece of paper and store it in a safe place. DO NOT keep it online, on your Mac, or on another device labeled “Master Password”!
If you have a strong password, there is no need to change it. If you do, you’re more likely to use a weak password or forget the new one. Using a strong, unique master password is more important than changing it every few months.
If you’re using passwords generated by a good password manager, there’s no reason to change your password unless one of your accounts has been compromised. Review all of your passwords and replace those that are weak, using your password manager to generate strong, random passwords.
Protecting passwords on your Mac is a must and relatively easy to do. Implement password best practices by:
But don’t delay!
Install a password manager and secure your passwords today!
Head of Community at MacUpdate
Marta Turnbull is a MacUpdate OG and has written about technology, marketing and brand creativity for over 10 years. She splits her time between Michigan and Ukraine.
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