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Should you use a Free Password Manager, and Are They Secure?

by Kevin Bellah
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Cyber security is a hot topic today, and will certainly continue to be this way in the future. For every move that hackers make, security experts have to continuously be moving ahead of them.

There have been some monumental data breaches over the last decade, and some of these have cost millions of dollars. While there are some very sophisticated attacks on businesses, quite often, data breaches happen due to weak passwords or from phishing.

According to Grand View Research, the global password management market was expected to reach around $881 million by 2020. The cybersecurity market, in general, is expected to reach $146 billion by 2022 according to Statista.

Nevertheless, there are many free versions of security software such as VPNs and password vaults. Are they effective though, or should free cybersecurity measures be swerved?

What requirements are there for password managers?

There are many interesting stats surrounding the use of passwords, and one of them is the number of login credentials that the average person has. It is believed that most individuals will have around 88 different passwords and usernames for a variety of apps and sites.

The problem then is that the majority of people will either forget their passwords or simply repeat the same ones on different websites making themselves vulnerable. Other options are to write passwords down or remain logged in constantly.

None of these situations are particularly secure or ideal. A password manager allows someone to safely store all of their passwords in one place. This is often called a password vault. This adds a level of security and removes the need for trying to remember all the different credentials.

What do password managers do?

Password managers don’t just store all the different credentials, they can also generate them. This means that original and unique passwords can be generated each time someone accesses a website.

This is critical in today’s atmosphere of hackers and cyber theft. According to Finances Online, 80% of hacking incidents were caused by reused passwords. 17% of hackers have successfully guessed other individuals’ passwords too. And, a large percentage of data breaches happen due to weak passwords.

Is it a sound idea to use a password manager?

You may not realize it, but you are most likely already using some form of password manager on your mobile device or on your PC. Google syncs passwords, and mobile devices store login credentials also.

A dedicated password manager is different and may be a vital area of cybersecurity. Remote workers are certainly more common today than they were ever before, and this can lead to security lapses and weaknesses. One of the many security tips for working from home would be to use a password vault.

This is because as a remote worker you are likely to be using business accounts as well as your personal ones on the same computer.

Maintaining online security is critical today, especially for anyone who uses the net for ecommerce or banking. Any sensitive data that you are storing online, or accounts that you use, could be compromised.

A password manager can help make this securer, but you may have to pay for it.

Are free password managers as secure as paid-for versions?

There are many benefits to outsourcing cyber security, but not everyone has the resources to invest in this area. The cybersecurity experts recognise this, and often offer free software.

There are plenty of options for free VPNs, firewalls, malware protection, and anti-virus software. There are many free password managers available too.

A free password manager will still help to keep your passwords safe. Their purpose is exactly the same as a paid-for version. Whether they are as secure as their bigger cousin is a matter of debate.

Many experts say that free password managers use weaker protection. But then many companies make a free and a subscription version, and the differences may not be in the security.

Should you use a paid-for version?

One of the reasons that there are free and subscription versions of software, is to allow users to trial it.

For instance, PassCamp password manager comes as a free version, but also as commercial software. The cause for this is that there are more features, or the target audience differs.

Commercial password managers may be aimed at individuals as well as teams. Therefore they will have different licenses or subscription fees. They are likely to have many more features than the free version, and in some cases, there may be extra levels of security.

Whether you should use a free or commercial password vault may depend on your needs. Are you running a business with employees and many accounts? Or are you an individual surfing the net at home? 

Do free password managers have any advantages or disadvantages?

The most obvious advantage of a free password manager is that it doesn’t cost anything. This allows you to try out as many versions as you like until you find one that suits your requirements

The disadvantages are that you won’t be able to use them in a team environment, and probably not for business either. They may possibly have a weaker encryption method than a commercial version, and they will certainly have fewer features.

There is one disadvantage to all password managers though, and that is that you are placing all your credentials in one place. Though the password vault will have a very strong unique master key, it can still be hacked.

However, as an added level of security, a free password manager shouldn’t be dismissed due to it having fewer features. For a home computer user, a password manager, free or not, represents more safety when online.

Summary

A free password manager could in theory have weaker encryption than a commercial version. This is something that makes many experts recommend avoiding free software.

Nevertheless, there is always the possibility of trialing a free password manager before committing to a monthly subscription. Fortunately, commercial password managers aren’t expensive, and as cybersecurity is critical, it may be worth shelling out a few bucks.

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