The New Year’s celebrations have barely ended and it seems I’m once again researching Password Managers. What led me to this point is a longer story which I’ll relate in a future post, but for now I thought that I would post the results as I gathered intelligence on the current standings of password managers.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that there aren’t a lot of great sources for this information yet in 2016. This is just one more good reason for me to publish this data as I write it…so please note that this post is a ‘work in progress WIP.’ Please check back sometime soon if you’re somewhat underwhelmed by what I’ve accomplished so far.
The cool thing about me writing this as a WIP piece is that I get to share my research methodology with you too. Not that my methods are all that unique…but I’ve recently learned that several younger members of my extended family, who just happen to be in college currently, don’t seem to have developed good research skills yet…so I’m excited to share this with them :-)
How to Get Started
My first step is always to get a handle on what’s been published recently. Unfortunately, I’m coming up really short for timely information currently. It seems that there were a lot of great articles written at the beginning of 2015…but very few were written since then. In fact, the most current comprehensive article I’ve found is from June of 2015…so while the information contained in it is great stuff…it’s still information that’s roughly 6 months old! Six months is a very long time in the online world of data security!
So, this is the best, most comprehensive article I’ve found so far…it was written in June 2015 by Tim Ferrill for InfoWorld. His article is called Review: The best password managers for PCs, Macs, and mobile devices
In it he writes really great in-depth reviews of 6 password managers including:
Tim goes on to write less detailed, but still really helpful sections about 6 more password managers (ironically that means he gave us 2 as bonuses based upon his article’s subtitle!) These include:
- Symantec Norton Identity Safe
The last useful data I gleaned was contained in the 15 Comments which followed his article. In the comments there were a few more password managers mentioned that I’ll look into further, including:
- Nervepoint Access Manager
CrypSafe for Android
After posting my first draft of this on Twitter I received a request to include one additional password manager named Zoho Vault. So I took a quick look at it and decided to add that one to this first list too. Zoho seems more geared towards corporate use but appears to offer a nice complement of features for free for personal use as well. You can read more about it via the link below.
After spending quite a bit of time setting up Zoho Vault my initial impression was confirmed…it seems more geared towards business users who have multiple users and overly complex for personal users. But for business users who need to manage many passwords for multiple groups I suspect it has true potential.
Also mentioned in the comments section was a last category I’ll consider here. Many modern browsers offer built in password managers now. The 3 that I’m familiar with include:
While Internet Explorer does save passwords too, I don’t use it (you shouldn’t either because more viruses target I.E. than any other browser.) Therefore, I’m unfamiliar with how I.E. password management functions, although I do have some vague recollection that passwords seemed to me to be exceptionally secure in Explorer. But currently, with Windows 10, I.E. is no longer even Microsoft’s built in browser anymore. MS has developed a brand new browser called Edge, which I assume also has a built in password manager, but because I’ve not updated to Windows 10 yet, I know nothing about Edge.
What I Can Tell You About Built-in Browser Password Managers is This: What a Difference a Year Makes
Last year, when I wrote about built in browsers supporting password management I stated that Chrome didn’t offer a secure method for accomplishing this. But in 2015 Google orchestrated a massive overhaul of security for many of their products (which actually caused a lot of problems for ios users too and has led to this being my most visited post) and I’m happy to now be able to recommend using Chrome to safely and securely store passwords once again!
When I last wrote about Apple’s Safari password management utility I wrote that their system was adequate, but minimal. Now that Apple has merged their Keychain security software with Safari, Apple’s password management system is perhaps ‘the best of the browsers’…and then some. Simply put…it’s very good. So good in fact that it almost makes this whole discussion irrelevant if someone only uses Apple hardware. But for those people using hardware from multiple platforms, such as from Windows and Apple or, from Android and Windows for example,…a good password management system is still necessary and advised.
The Firefox password manager utility hasn’t really changed much from what I can tell. Since that’s what I use on my computer…which frankly I don’t really use very much at all because I use iPad’s almost entirely…that’s not really a bad thing. I’ve always believed that Firefox had the best method of securing passwords…it wasn’t a feature-filled method, nor was it fancy. But it was, and still is, solid and secure. The only negative that I can think of regarding Firefox is that they have consciously chosen to not be accessible on many different platforms…meaning that the ios app that used to sync bookmarks and passwords was dropped from the App Store. As was their entire browser for Windows 8…which is why I began using Chrome more when using Win 8 devices. This has essentially made Firefox a single platform solution…which is maybe why I first sought out a better method of password managers for multiple platforms in the first place!
A Little More About How I Begin My Research Process
So, Tim’s article that I’ve outlined above list’s password managers in order of his preference…meaning that the password manager he recommends most, given that everything else is equal, is 1Password. His hierarchy is helpful because I’ll use it as a benchmark for comparison to other data I find.
My process goes like this. Step One is that I gather as much data as I can. If that data is already categorized in a hierarchy like Tim’s is, than I can do a list to list comparison. But even if it isn’t, that’s OK. Because during my first phase what I’m really trying to do is just zero in on the password managers that are considered to be the best by many different sources. Essentially what I’m trying to do is cull out the outliers so that I have a solid list of maybe 6 or 7 top performers that I’ll look at in much more detail in Phase 2.
Gathering More Data for Step or Phase 1
The next useful article I ran across is one written by a good review site called Top 10 Reviews. I used to think that this site wasn’t legit because they display a lot of ads on it. But I was wrong. The data presented here is actually quite useful…especially for my Phase 1 purpose. The article shown in the screenshot below is 2016 Password Management Software Reviews:
The screenshot above only shows the first table of data in this article…but it’s the most important one for my purposes. The table shows what this site feels are the best password managers ranked from 1st to 10th. This list is a great cross reference for the earlier lists I extracted from InfoWorld’s article.
But the Top 10 article contains much more useful data too, so be sure to take some time to read it!
Ideally, for Phase 1, I would have at least 3 really solid sources of hierarchical lists that I could use to generate a short list for my second phase. Because I only have 2 so far, I’ll need to research further. So this is where I’ll stop for tonight, and I’ll hopefully find a 3rd great source by morning.