You want to use a password manager and you’re ready to download it. What do you do next?
|Keep those passwords safe
Geralt, Public Domain, via Pixabay
So, you’ve finally decided to get serious about your online security and start using a password manager?
Well, you can’t go wrong with Lastpass.
Ok now, I’ll admit I’m biased towards Lastpass, but that’s because I’m a very happy “pro” user.
If you haven’t read my previous article on why you should use a password manager, then go read it first and come back when you’ve finished there!
Step 1: go to https://lastpass.com/ and download it (it’s free).
When you click the download button, you’ll be offered a different installer, depending on what platform you are on (PC or Mac, etc) and which browsers you use.
The easiest choice is the binary installer, which will automatically sort out your machine and all your browsers, in one go.
However, if you aren’t allowed to install programs on your computer – if, for example, you are on a locked down work PC – then there are browser add-ons available instead.
Once you’ve got that installer in your hot little mitts, the next thing to do is install it.
That’s not much more than a double-click away, but the wizard will take you through a few steps, to help get you set up.
One of the the first things it will do is ask you to create a user account, with a strong password.
Lastpass will give you some guidance on this and will let you know just how strong your password is.
The trick is to make sure you come up with something that is both memorable and strong.
You can of course, change it later, but it’s worth taking some time to think it over, before you start.
If you can get this step right, then everything else will fall into place much easier.
Because once you’ve memorised your master password, Lastpass will do everything else for you.
– you don’t need to remember your Facebook password, because Lastpass will fill it in, on your behalf.
That will feel a bit weird at first, but trust me, it’s a whole lot more relaxing, in the long term.
To that end, the Lastpass installer will ask to trawl through your browser settings, to see if you have any passwords stored there.
We’ve all seen those little prompts, in Internet Eplorer or Chrome, when we log into a website.
“Would you like me to remember that password for you?”, it says, innocently.
Many of us think that’s handy, but don’t realise that those passwords are often held unencrypted (as plain text).
Anyone could therefore look at the files where they are stored and get into your personal accounts.
Lastpass will happily grab them all, save them in its database – encrypted this time – and delete them from the browser files.
I recommend you say, “yes”, to allow Lastpass to make a clean sweep of your system.
If you let Lastpass do that first step, you’re well on your way and the rest of the install will complete in short order.
You’ve now got a set of websites saved in there, but how do you use them?
You’ll be asked to log in and you can tell the program to remember your user name and/or password, if you want.
– Just be aware of whether you are on a home, work or public computer, before you make a choice on this!
Once logged in, the Lastpass icon will turn red (unless you’re using Safari, in OS X Yosemite, in which case it becomes a grey star).
Click on it again and you’ll see a load of different options (see image, right).
Ignore them all for now and click on the top one, My Lastpass Vault.
Assuming you imported some websites, you will see a list of them (image, below right).
The cursor will be located in a search box at the top of the screen.
Just start typing and the list will filter down to your search criteria.
|Websites in Lastpass|
Hover the mouse over the name of your favourite website and it becomes a hyperlink.
Try clicking and the page will open in a new tab and Lastpass will automatically log you in or fill out your password, depending on your settings (auto-login, by default).
On the right hand side of the Vault you will find some icons under the Actions section (see image, right), where you can edit, share or delete a website from your vault.
The most useful thing to show you right now, is if you click the Edit button and look at the displayed dialog.
Click under Advanced settings and you will see 3 tick boxes (image, below).
The one we are interested in is Autologin.
When unticked, Lastpass will fill out the password form for you, but it’s up to you to click the “Submit” or “OK” button.
When ticked, then Lastpass will login for you, with no prompting required.
Most of the time you’ll leave Autologin ticked.
However, if you have multiple accounts for the same website, then un-ticking Autologin will allow you to choose which account to use.
For example, I administer several GMail accounts – a couple for me and some for my wife and kids – so I have them all set up in my Vault.
When I go to the GMail login page, Lastpass puts a little number next to the password box, saying I can choose from x many accounts.
I click the number and see a list of e-mail addresses: I select the one I want and Lastpass fills out the details for the correct account.
|This site has only 1 account|
Ok, so that’s your Vault, which comes in useful from time to time, particularly when you have lots of websites saved.
Remember though, you don’t have to use the Vault to access your websites.
You can go straight there, via a search or bookmark and Lastpass will still fill out the details for you.
It’s clever like that.
But how do I add all my other sites?
Well, I’m glad you asked me that.
While we’re in the vault, you may see the option to “Add Site” in the top left hand corner.
You can use this option if you know the exact URL of the site, but fret not, there’s a much easier way, which I’ll show you next.
Just follow these instructions and you’ll be golden:
Lastpass will take charge next time you go to that site.
It’s up to you whether you want to go through and store all your websites in one go, or if you want to do it gradually over a couple of days.
Either way, you’ll soon come to rely on Lastpass to remember your passwords for you.
My last tip for today, is what to do when you sign up for a new service online.
You can fill out the usual forms on the website in question, but Lastpass has a few more tricks up its sleeve.
One of those is the “Fill Forms” function, which I don’t have enough space for here.
I will try to look at that option in another post, but an even better one is Generate Password.
Go through the process of registering your user name or e-mail address, but now have a look at the password box.
Click on it and you’ll get another small dialog with a random password, all ready to use.
If you want to have a little fun, click the button next to the password a few times, to see a series of random passwords pass before your eyes.
Otherwise, just click the Use Password button.
You’ll be asked to save the site in your vault, just like you did with your existing websites.
Then you’ll be returned to the original page and you can click the Register/Save button to add your new, shiny account.
I can’t stress enough how much easier my digital life has become, since I discovered the Generate Password feature.
It takes all the worry out of thinking up new passwords and trying to remember them.
Since the generated passwords are completely random, they are extremely difficult to hack, so it gives me extra peace of mind.
It brings us eerily close to Lastpass’ marketing blurb that the password to your vault is “the last password you’ll ever need”.
I say “close”…
My only word of caution, is that certain services rely on e-mail accounts (such as GMail) to recover their passwords.
You may therefore wish to keep such an account with a more memorable, non-random, (but strong!) password, in case of dire need.
You can of course, access Lastpass offline, but call me paranoid, I’d rather be safe than sorry.
Next time, I’ll talk about how to take your Lastpass experience to the max, with increased security for your valuable passwords and more ways to make your life easier.
My question for you today is:
What password manager are you using and how easy was it to get set up?
I'm Tim Bader, founder of ErgonomicToolbox.com and the Ergonomic Toolbox training course. I am a writer, author, blogger and church leader, and I help people to overcome RSI and live comfortably with technology. When I'm not writing, helping or training people, I live at home with my wife, two teenage kids and Playstation.
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