The 6 best password managers

Look to these top password managers for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android to make your online life easier and more secure.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

KeePass was designed to store a local copy of the password vault. Cloud backup and support for synchronization across multiple devices are obtained through plug-ins that work with the likes of Dropbox, Google Docs, Microsoft OneDrive or even your own FTP server. A side benefit of a local password database such as KeyPass is the ability for multiple users to share a database or for one user to keep multiple databases, sharing some and keeping others private.

Mobile support for KeePass is more obtuse than for the commercial options. Ports are available for iOS and Android, but the big question becomes synchronization support. Not all mobile ports support cloud synchronization, and those that do support only a subset of the cloud options. Some mobile KeePass clients carry a cost, though most are in the $1 to $2 range.

A couple of web-based KeePass clients allow you to work with a key database stored on your local hard drive or a cloud storage account. KeeWeb is particularly sleek and it’s available in native Windows, MacOS and Linux versions as well. Like KeePass, KeeWeb is open source.

If you’re more concerned about the security of your password vault than mobile clients and device synchronization, you’ll be pleased to know that KeePass supports multiple authentication methods by default. KeePass database files can be locked by a combination of password, key file and Windows user account. With a key file stored on removable media such as a USB thumb drive, 2FA can be used to secure access to your critical passwords.

The biggest downside to KeePass is complexity. Getting all the advanced functionality offered by the competition will require quite a bit of research, setup and maintenance. Heck, you even have several options for multi-factor authentication, but you’re largely on your own to get it working. While KeePass is a great solution for fans of free open source and maximum flexibility, it is certainly not as straightforward as some of the cloud-based services and hybrid solutions listed here.

Keeper Security

In the past I’ve omitted Keeper from this list because it’s a crowded field and I didn’t feel like there were any significant features setting Keeper apart from the likes of 1Password, Dashlane and LastPass. The honest truth is Keeper is right up there with the best password managers available. In fact, Keeper’s mobile apps are the most reviewed and most used. (In the Google Play store, Keeper has over 10 million installs, while the next closest competitor has roughly half that. Apple doesn’t share install numbers but Keeper has close to 150,000 ratings, while the second-place finisher has closer to 41,000.) Usage numbers certainly aren’t the whole story, but the disparity is telling.

keeper Tim Ferrill

Keeper password manager

Keeper checks all the boxes I would consider major feature requirements including on-device encryption, comprehensive support for 2FA including TOTP and U2F hardware keys, and secure sharing. The free Keeper version gives you unlimited password and form data storage and access to one device. Keeper unlimited runs $34.99 annually and gives you access to unlimited devices, as well as secure sharing, emergency access and biometric authentication on supported devices. The family plan provides password management for up to five users for $74.99 per year.

Keeper offers a couple of add-ons to its password manager, including a secure messenger, a dark web monitoring service, and secure file storage. Each add-on comes with additional cost or can be bundled for $72.22 annually for individuals or $148.72 annually for families.

You have two options for business plans. Keeper Business costs $45 per year per user and includes features for team management, security audits, policy enforcement and activity reporting. Keeper Enterprise costs $60 per year per user and adds features including SAML-based SSO, Active Directory and LDAP sync, email auto-provisioning, and a developer API.

LastPass

LastPass might be the most popular password manager in this review due to a rich set of features, support for a wide range of mobile platforms, and straightforward licensing, not to mention aggressive marketing. LastPass is decidedly cloud-centric, using its own cloud service to store user information and synchronize data.

lastpass Tim Ferrill

LastPass password manager

The sheer popularity of LastPass makes it a tempting target for people with malicious intent and the skillset to match. Over the years LastPass has acknowledged a handful of security incidents, including compromised user emails and password reminders, though its encrypted user vaults were not compromised. Another well-publicized LastPass security incident was due to a vulnerability in the LastPass browser plugin. In the win column for customer privacy, LastPass has also rebuffed government attempts to obtain user data, stating that they couldn’t access the requested data if they wanted to.

It’s important to keep vulnerabilities in perspective. All software has bugs, and security software is no exception. An important consideration when choosing which software to use is whether vulnerabilities are patched soon after they’re discovered. LastPass has passed this test.

LastPass offers a free and premium pricing tier for consumers, with the premium service costing $3 per month on an annual contract. LastPass for Families includes six users for $4 monthly. Users of the free edition get many of the basics you’d expect from a premium cloud-based service including plugins for multiple browsers and access from any of your devices. The free version even supports MFA using a variety of options including LastPass Authenticator and Google Authenticator. LastPass Authenticator not only supports standard TOTP authentication, but also push notifications to facilitate a more streamlined authentication process. LastPass users also benefit from push. While mobile device support used to be limited to Premium subscribers, LastPass users can now synchronize with their mobile apps using the free service.

Premium users can share credentials with more than a single user. The Shared Family Folder feature allows a single user to share with up to five other users, including users with free accounts. Premium subscribers may create multiple shared folders and manage folder permissions, providing only the appropriate level of access to shared users.

Two tiers of business plans are available. The Teams plan for 50 or fewer employees is $4 per user per month, while the Enterprise plan for an unlimited number of users is $6 per user per month.

LastPass supports several forms of 2FA. I’ve already mentioned that both LastPass Authenticator and Google Authenticator are supported with free accounts, providing simple integration using a mobile device. LastPass Authenticator can be used to receive push notifications in the event of an authentication attempt, allowing you to confirm the authentication request from your mobile device. Premium accounts gain support for Yubikey, a USB hardware authentication device and Sesame, a software authentication tool run from a USB storage device, as well as support for desktop fingerprint readers in Windows.

If you need simple password management, you can’t go wrong with a free LastPass account. For more granular credential sharing and mobile device support, both LastPass Premium and LastPass Families are bargains at $3 and $4 (for up to six users) a month with an annual contract.

Other contenders

SplashID Safe

SplashID Safe has been on our list of viable options for a while now, but its limited support for 2FA (email and SMS are the only options) makes it hard to recommend it. SplashID offers free accounts for users who don’t need to sync, while SplashID Pro enables multiple devices and backup. SplashID Pro can be had for $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year and offers a couple of slick options that do make it stand out: WiFi-based synchronization and the ability to mark a login as local only, preventing that data from being pushed out to the cloud.

NordPass

NordPass is a relatively new entry in the password manager space and is offered from the same people as NordVPN. NordPass offers a free usage tier that supports unlimited logins and synchronization across multiple devices, the only catch being that you can only actively use one device at a time. For secure sharing and the use of multiple devices at once you’ll need NordPass Premium, which will set you back a reasonable $2.49 per month.

Buttercup

Buttercup is another open-source alternative to keep an eye on. Now in version 1.20.5, Buttercup is a more polished option than KeePass, at least in terms of user interface. Buttercup offers clients for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android and iOS, with a web client currently in an invite-only alpha stage. Like its open-source brethren, Buttercup uses local storage for your password vault, but supports cloud storage tools like Dropbox to synchronize among devices.

This story, "The 6 best password managers " was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2
The 10 most powerful cybersecurity companies