A random jumble of letters is a secure password, but will you remember it? Password management can secure your account without memorizing these long passwords.
What is Password Management?
Password management is a method of storing passwords in a way where they are immediately accessible to the user. Password management addresses the key weakness (at least on the user end) of passwords, namely:
- The desire to simplify passwords
- The inability to remember complex pass phrases
- The inclination of using the same phrase across systems
With that in mind, “management” can cover several techniques, even something simple like writing passwords on a post-it note. We wouldn’t recommend that approach, however. Modern management relies on database applications, often called “vaults”, that store authentication methods so that they can be organized by users.
How do password managers do this? In a few ways:
- Provide encrypted storage. Management solutions store data and login page addresses with encryption. This means that all those private phrases are protected under a single password, and typically through some form of MFA.
- Allow auto-completion during sign-in. Many modern solutions include browser add-ons or mobile apps that allow users to auto-insert passwords into the right field. Not only are these passwords encrypted, but the user doesn’t even have to remember them.
- Encourage complexity. Since a password manager stores the information, the user has no reason to use easily guessed or short words or phrases. Even better, many management solutions include generators that they can store in the user’s account.
Password managers organize their information based on a combination of username, password, and location of use. For example, if a user stores information to log in to their online banking, a password manager will typically give them the ability to store the username/password combo along with the URL of the bank’s user portal. Many password managers also provide ways to organize records into folders or share passwords with other authorized users.
Password Management Applications Versus Browser-Based Solutions
Management solutions are becoming more widespread, in no small part because many browsers include some form of management.
Browsers like Chrome, Edge and Firefox all include management that incorporates auto-fill capabilities into the browser. This way, the user not only can store their data, but they can also simply count on the browser to put the right username and passphrase into the correct fields.
Browser managers have a few critical limitations, however:
- They lock you into a specific browser. If you want to switch browsers, then you would have to find a way to transfer your pass phrases to that new browser, which can be disproportionately difficult.
- They aren’t as secure. Modern managers include top-of-the-line encryption and other security measures and dedicate their entire business operation to security. A browser manager is only an additional feature to another application.
Dedicated password managers can help mitigate issues with browser-based managers by opening up access to functionality in application- or even OS-agnostic contexts you can use.
Features to Look for in a Password Manager
That all being said, you should understand that not all password managers are created equal. If you want to adopt a standard manager for your team, or across an entire organization, then it’s important to look for a set of useful features.
These features include:
End-To-End Encryption: A solid password manager will include encryption. If you are looking for an enterprise solution, then look for a manager that can use AES-128 or AES-256 encryption for stored information and TLS or SSL security for transmitting or sharing passwords.
Password Generator: A strong generator can help your employees automatically generate passwords without needing to invent one. Bonus points if that generator includes customization for length and complexity.
Secure Sharing: It helps to have centralized vaults that users can share across your organization. Secure sharing with role-based permissions can help you segment and share system credentials rapidly and without compromising security.
Multi-Factor Authentication: A password manager should have top-notch security. Along with encryption, MFA including device or SMS authentication, or biometrics can provide that extra level of protection.
Browser Extensions: A manager with a browser extension can essentially do the same work as a browser manager, albeit without limitations. A good password manager will have an extension with autofill for most or all popular browsers, including Chrome, Edge and Firefox.
Mobile Apps: A password manager with a mobile app can help your employees combine mobile technology with biometrics to protect their login data while carrying it wherever they go. That means no more post-it notes or insecure digital notes.
Passwordless: The newest, and perhaps most exciting advance in password management is “passwordless” management. In this arrangement, a solution will often use a mix of mobile apps, advanced biometrics, liveness testing and authentication over distributed systems like blockchains to minimize the attack surface of a system.
What are the Risks of Password-Only Authentication?
Passwords are one of the most common forms of user authentication. They come with a few immediate benefits:
- They are cheap–but only up-front. Password systems are relatively inexpensive to implement and scale with different, disparate systems depending on your authorization needs.
- They are easily changeable. If a user account is compromised, it is relatively simple for your IT team to change that password.
- Passwords can provide security. That is, they can do so if your users provide strong and secure passphrases.
- Usable with Management Solutions. Since passwords are plain text, they can be encrypted and stored in password managers.
That being said, passphrases are also often a weak point in your security and authorization infrastructure for a few reasons:
- Users often don’t provide strong passwords. Strong passphrases are hard to remember, and with the sheer volume of phrases that a typical person uses throughout the day, it’s tempting for them to use simple passwords that are easy to crack through a dictionary attack.
- Users often rely on the same phrase for multiple accounts. A study from 2020 showed that up to 53% of participants admitted to using the same password for personal and business accounts, including streaming services that are often the target of hacks.
- Databases are easily breached. Typically a database is easily breached because of poor security. However, databases are especially vulnerable because the internal measures they rely on to keep user authentication information safe (encryption and hashing) can more readily be broken once stolen.
The way to mitigate these less-than-ideal cybersecurity practices would be to implement a way to eliminate the reasons why users would avoid strong passwords. That’s where authentication management becomes organizational support for users and your IT team.
Popular Password Management Solutions in 2023
1Password is a popular platform usable on nearly any operating system (Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix) and browser. It also integrates with most biometric hardware and services like Windows Hello, Touch ID on Mac, and Linux/iOS/Android fingerprint scanning. While there isn’t a free tier, there is a free trial, and the paid accounts support a secure password management experience. This solution works great for organizations with diverse user devices and systems.
Dashlane, like the other solutions described, includes powerful encryption to protect stored passwords. It includes end-to-end encryption, Virtual Private Network (VPN) capabilities, dark web monitoring, and a password health checker. This solution is great for consumers who want extra password protection or small businesses who could use the extra help in protecting their passwords.
Kaspersky Password Manager
Kaspersky includes strong cryptography and the ability to synchronize passwords across different devices. This solution integrates many browsers and operating systems and synchronizes payment and address information alongside passwords. This is a solid solution for personal and small- to mid-size businesses.
Keeper includers personal and business password management solutions. In both cases, Keep provides secure and compliant password management. For enterprise users, however, Keeper also offers secrets management to protect credentials and authentication keys in APIs and connection management with zero-trust security for DevOps and container development security.
Bypass Passwords with BlockID
As you may have seen, managing passwords across your organization is a challenge. While they are still considered the norm for most organizations, you can also bypass them by implementing passwordless solutions that utilize biometrics and advanced authentication systems.
1Kosmos suggests that you combine strong password management with biometrics and other critical IAM technologies to create a truly secure and accessible IT infrastructure.
1Kosmos BlockID provides a passwordless system that takes your security to the next level while providing a streamlined user experience for your organization. This system includes features like:
- True Passwordless Authentication: Users, with a mobile app and their biometrics (Touch, Voice, or Face ID) can access your internal networks or VPN without requiring multiple steps or memorizing any information.
- Identity Proofing: BlockID includes Identity Assurance Level 3 (NIST 800-63A IAL3) detects fraud activity at the level of user identification.
- Identity-Based Authentication Orchestration: Rely on a clear zero-trust infrastructure with identity-based authentication at every entry point in your system.
- Integration with MFA: BlockID readily integrates with standard-based API to operating systems, applications and MFA infrastructure at AAL2.
- Secure Blockchain: BlockID uses Ethereum blockchain and smart contracts to distribute user credentials securely and safely across their multiple mobile devices, creating an essentially impervious identity infrastructure.
If you are ready to start with 1Kosmos and BlockID, learn more about Passwordless Enterprise authentication. Also, make sure you sign up for the 1Kosmos email newsletter for updates of products and events.