Over two years ago a wrote a post about how I’d had a little mishap with my laptop and my passwords (A Fool and Her Password are Easily Parted).
I was surprised by the number of comments and suggestions made, everyone seems to have their own way of remembering passwords. It’s a problem that many of us were struggling with. At one point in the comments I admitted that despite my scare…
“I have to come clean that I haven’t actually done anything about my passwords yet. I’ve looked at a number of online tools (I personally feel that I need something that is available ‘from anywhere’ so KeepPass doesn’t really suit) but all seem to cost, especially if you want something also accessible from a phone. I’m reluctant to pay so I’m now considering other options. I’m thinking that your method might be a possibility. Maybe even a Google doc is a possibility as long as the security is set up properly?“
Not much has changed in the two years since I wrote the post. I still have the “written out list of about 250 user names and their corresponding passwords” – though now the list is a lot longer and starting to fall apart. The main action I’ve taken is to photocopy it and store it in a safe place, and I don’t take it out with me on trips anymore!
All a bit pathetic really.
Now I’m working for the Open Knowledge Foundation and leaving UKOLN I have a whole other set of issues – sorting out my digital identity. My colleague Brian Kelly has written this great presentation on the type of issues involved: When Staff and Researchers Leave Their Host Institution. The University of Bath allow us to have at least 4 different aliases and I’ve used them sporadically to register for accounts (though I’ve tended to use my standard email address for the majority). So lots of email addresses (which will soon be defunct) and user accounts along with lots of passwords. It’s a merry mess!
Luckily the Open Knowledge Foundation have just gone with LastPass, an online password manager. I’m hoping it’s going to be my salvation. LastPass claim that:
“Collectively we lose more than 10,300 hours per year retrieving lost passwords, making new ones or talking to call center representatives about them. And it gets much worse if a password is stolen and misused.“
LastPass works using a browser plugin that will learn (and encrypt) your password for all the online sites you use. It will also help you create secure strong new passwords (if you so wish – personally I prefer to make my own). You can import your data from existing services and browsers and you can securely share logins with colleagues. It is an online service, so you need to be online to access it, but then everything is online (hence my recent rewiring.)
I’ve only just started using LastPass but I’m hoping the day may come when I can throw away my scruffy bit of paper and move on! Now I just need to visit about 300 sites and change the email address I have registered with…