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Here’s how to wrangle your passwords without going crazy

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Marriott. Exactis. Under Armour. The list of online breaches marches on. You can’t prevent corporations from bungling security and leaking your data. But taking extra care with your logins can minimize the damage. Some best practices are obvious: For instance, you shouldn’t use the same username and password for multiple sites, lest hackers who break into one account can access others. And if you don’t store information—such as credit card numbers—in the first place, it can’t be breached.

However, the advice of security pros–such as to create lengthy, gobbledygook passwords–can seem a path to madness. Over the holidays I logged into my Amazon Prime Video account to watch shows on an Apple TV at a vacation rental. Pecking out my exemplary password “JjV7h?cJ6o” with a remote control and onscreen keyboard was infuriating.

Then there’s the growing security trend of two-factor authentication (2FA). In addition to a username and password, you need to enter a temporary code–usually sent to your phone as a text message. But what happens if you lose your phone or it’s stolen?

With the right tips and tools, however, you can ensure reasonably secure logins with just a reasonable amount of effort. These three steps require some upfront work, but they pay off by reducing both security risks and daily hassles.

It’s impossible to recall the dozens–perhaps hundreds–of unique passwords you need to stay secure. Fortunately, plenty of apps can help by generating strong passwords, storing them, and filling them in automatically to websites and apps–using browser plugins and integration with Android and iOS. You need remember only a master password to unlock the app.

Password managers can also fill in tedious online forms with lots of other data: names, addresses, credit card numbers, and more. This is a much safer time-saver than allowing each ecommerce site to store payment data, where it can by swiped by hackers in a breach.

Password manager apps typically sync through the cloud across devices, so you can log into sites from your phone as well as a tablet or computer. You don’t lose all your logins if you lose a device. And unlike the password-management features built into operating systems and browsers, they work with all your gadgets regardless of what app or platform you’re using at the moment.

The selection of apps has exploded in recent years. Two of the best are Dashlane and LastPass.


© Fast Company