Password Manager Series Part III
By Bob Deakin
I discussed who needs a password manager in the first two parts of the Series. I also teased that sometimes you need a manager for your password manager, but it merely takes becoming familiar with the process. For today’s discussion, I ask what the best password manager is for you and why.
According to password manager Nordpass, the typical internet user has 100 passwords. Many online sources offer their choices of the best PMs, and you’ll see the same names pop up on most, but consider the source.
How Transparent Are Online Reviews?
That depends on your definition of transparency. Many online reviews are connected at the hip with one or more password managers. Based on their advertising or perks, it’s easy to figure out, so I don’t consider it deceptive. If they offer quality insights into their lists of PMs, it’s worthwhile info.
Hundreds of reviews cover the merits of PMs. In the past decade, I’ve used five different password managers in the workplace for an extended period. The setup and maintenance are about the same, as are the quirks and annoying factors, most notably the amount of time needed to organize the vaults.
What Is the Most Popular Password Manager?
Tech website ZDNet’s top five are representative of many tech sources offering a list of top password managers:
You don’t have to pay for a PM for personal use if you don’t need all the features. According to a September 2023 Security.org poll, 34 percent of Americans online use PMs, up from 21 percent in 2022. This amounts to an estimated 79 million using password managers.
Key findings from the poll show that Apple and Google are far and away the most popular, amounting to half of the American password manager market. According to NetSecnews, 84 percent use PMs on their phones, 77 percent on laptops and desktops, and 44 percent on tablets. As of late 2023, Google comprises 30 percent of the market share, Apple’s iCloud Keychain 19 percent, LastPass ten percent, 1Password eight percent and Bitwarden seven.
NetSecnews also found that 63 percent use a free PM, 11 percent pay between $1 and $20 annually, and 12 percent pay between $21 and $40.
What Is the Best Password Manager for You?
Forbes offers its list of the Eight Best Password Managers with determining factors:
Norton: Best overall
NordPass: Best for businesses
Dashlane: Best for reliability
Bitwarden: Best open-source manager
1Password: Best for securing company secrets
KeePass: Best for programmers
Keeper: Best for scalability
LastPass: Best for a single-user account
PCMag has its own Top Eight for 2024:
Why Is It the Best for You?
CNET published a Best Password Managers list for 2024 with pros and cons:
Best Overall: Bitwarden
Pros: "Unbeatable free plan, open-source and secure, budget-friendly, compatible with virtually all platforms."
Cons: "UI is outdated compared to competitors, limited secure sharing features."
"Bitwarden scores points for being fully open-source, secure and audited annually by third-party cybersecurity firms, giving it a level of transparency that sets it apart from its peers."
Best Premium: 1Password
"Slightly on the more expensive side at $36 per year for individual users or $60 per year for families. There is no free plan."
Best PM for Offline Vault Access: Keeper ($35 per year for individuals)
Pro: "A great feature is its 'offline mode,' which allows you to access your vault items even if you're somewhere with zero or limited internet access."
Con: "The number of platforms you can use the service on is a little more limited than most other password managers."
Best PM for Large File Attachments: Nordpass ($25 for individuals)
"Well-designed, easy to navigate and works seamlessly across all platforms."
Best PM for Large Families: Dashlane (Free for one device and $90 per year for ten users)
Pro: “Works well and offers sufficient options for customization.”
Con: “Isn't quite as robust as what others offer.”
Others on CNET's list:
Enpass ($1.99 per month per individual) “On the downside, the app is a bit outdated and clunky but still fully functional.”
KeePass (Free) “Powerful password manager but geared primarily toward the techie crowd. Regular people may find the interface outdated and cumbersome to navigate compared to other password managers.”
Apple iCloud Keychain (Built-in) “Lacks the full breadth of options offered by other premium password manager solutions.”
LastPass (Free for basic and $3 per month for premium) “In light of its lengthy history of security incidents - including the data breach at the end of 2022 in which an ‘unauthorized party’ stole customer account information and sensitive vault data - CNET can't in good conscience recommend LastPass to our readers.”
There are different types of password managers including cloud-based, on-premise, browser-based, mobile, and single sign-on. Whichever one works for you depends on your situation. Most sources do not recommend using your browser’s built-in password manager but prefer a dedicated PM like the ones mentioned above.
In the fourth and final part of my series next week, I’ll review the virtues of the most recommended password managers. I’ll also look to the future of keeping your login credentials a secret, and whether that will involve passwords at all.