OUCH! | October 2015
IN THIS ISSUE...
• How Password Managers Work
• Choosing a Password Manager
One of the most important steps you can take to protect
yourself online is to use a unique, strong password for
Lenny Zeltser focuses on safeguarding customers’
each of your accounts. Unfortunately, most of us have so
IT operations at NCR Corp and trains security
many accounts that it’s almost impossible to remember all
professionals at the SANS Institute. Lenny is active
of our passwords. A simple solution is to use a password
on Twitter as @lennyzeltser and publishes articles
manager, sometimes called a password vault. These
applications are designed to securely store your login
credentials. Moreover, they can make it much easier for
you to log into websites, mobile apps and other applications.
How Password Managers Work
A password manager acts like a digital safe; it securely stores your usernames, passwords and other sensitive information.
When a website requires you to login to your account, the password manager can automatically retrieve your password
and securely log you into the website. This makes it simple to have hundreds of unique, strong passwords, since you do
not have to remember them.
Password managers store your details in a database, which is sometimes called a vault. The password manager
encrypts the vault’s contents and protects it with a master password that only you know. When you need to retrieve your
credentials, perhaps to log into your online bank or email accounts, you simply type your master password into your
password manager to unlock the vault.
Some password managers store your vault on your local system or smartphone, while others store it on a remote website
maintained by the company that built the password manager. In addition, most password managers include the ability to
automatically synchronize the vault’s contents across multiple devices that you authorize. This way, when you update a
password on your laptop, those changes are synchronized to your smartphone, tablet or any other computers you are
using. Regardless where the database is stored, you need to install the password manager application on your system
or device to use it.
OUCH! | October 2015
When you first set up a password manager, you need
to manually enter or import your logins and passwords.
Afterwards, the password manager can detect when
you’re attempting to register for a new online account or
update the password for an existing account, automatically
updating the vault accordingly. This is possible because
most password managers work hand-in-hand with
your web browser. This integration also allows them to
automatically log you into websites.
Password managers are designed to securely store
your sensitive data. However, it’s critical that the master
password you use to protect the vault’s contents is strong
Password managers are a simple way
and very difficult for others to guess. In fact, we recommend
to securely store and use all of your
you make your master password a passphrase, which is
one of the strongest types of passwords possible. If your
password manager supports two-step verification, use
that for your master password. Finally, make sure that you
do not use your master password for any other system or account. This way, even if a hacker manages to obtain a copy
of your vault, they will be unable to guess the password and access its contents. Finally, be sure you remember your
master password. If you forget it, you will not be able to access any of your other passwords.
Choosing a Password Manager
There are many free and commercial password managers to choose from. When trying to find the one that’s best for you,
please keep the following in mind:
• Confirm that the password manager will work on all the systems and mobile devices where you might need to
access your vault. The solution should also make it easy to keep the vault’s contents synchronized across all of
• Use only well-known and trusted password managers. Be wary of products that have not been around for a long
time or have little to no community feedback. Just like fake anti-virus software, cyber criminals can create fake
password managers to steal your information.
• Your password manager should be simple for you to use. If you find the solution too complex to understand, find
an alternative that better fits your style and expertise.
OUCH! | October 2015
• Make sure whatever solution you choose continues to be actively updated and patched, and be sure you are
always using the latest version.
• The password manager should make it easy for you to select strong passwords for your various accounts,
including the ability to automatically generate strong passwords and show you the strength of the passwords
• The password manager should give you the option of storing other sensitive data, such as the answers to your
secret security questions, credit cards or frequent flier numbers.
• Be wary of password managers that employ proprietary or unknown encryption techniques, rather than encrypting
your vault using industry-standard methods. If the vendor advertises how they developed their own encryption
solution, stay away from them.
• Avoid any password manager that claims to be able to recover your master password for you. This means they
know your master password, which exposes you to much more risk.
Password managers are a powerful solution to securely store all of your passwords and other sensitive data. However,
since they safeguard such important information, make sure you use a strong master password that is not only hard for
an attacker to guess, but easy for you to remember.
National Cyber Security Awareness Month
Come celebrate security awareness month with us as we provide numerous resources to help you, your family and your
organization stay safe and secure online. http:/ www.securingthehuman.org/resources/ncsam
Top Five Password Managers:
SANS Security Tip of the Day:
OUCH! is published by SANS Securing The Human and is distributed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
You are free to share or distribute this newsletter as long as you do not sell or modify it. For past editions or translated versions, visit
www.securingthehuman.org/ouch. Editorial Board: Bill Wyman, Walt Scrivens, Phil Hoffman, Bob Rudis