Free options are worth it
Still, with so many people not using password managers, isn’t something better than nothing? And might the free manager included with their browser encourage people to toss away their scraps of paper and get real password security?
“Something is better than nothing when it comes to passwords,” Morgan wrote.
The free options, in fact, are a few steps above nothing. Google security expert Tavis Ormandy wrote in a June 2021 blog post that he believes the free password managers embedded in browsers are, for a variety of technical reasons, more secure than the paid options. Ormandy, in the post, says has found vulnerabilities in the paid managers.
“They [the free options] provide the same functionality and can sidestep the fundamental problems with extensions,” he wrote. Ormandy wrote that he uses Chrome’s app, but other major browsers like Edge or Firefox offer solid products as well: “They have world-class security teams, and they couldn’t be easier to use.”
Advantages are cost, simplicity
What do they have that the paid options lack? Perhaps the main advantages are cost and simplicity. With seemingly every security expert calling for people to use a password manager as cyberattacks soar and with so few people using them, they may be the right choice for many households.
They’re not hard to use. When you create an account that requires a password, the browser will ask if you’d like it to save the password. You can add your own password and click “yes.” And you’re done. The password is encrypted and saved.
The managers also offer to create a unique password — a long, computer-generated combination of numbers, characters and upper- and lowercase letters — for each site. This removes risks associated with reusing passwords. Of course, the paid options include this.
Sharing passwords is another concern with the free managers. Sharing is a built-in option on the paid applications, since subscribers log in with a master password that can be made available to all household members. But with Chrome, for example, passwords are locked up with your personal account, the one that controls your email, and you may not be willing to share that information.
But whatever you do, do something. Hacking isn’t going away. The risks are growing daily.
“Just like everybody should be wearing a seat belt, everybody should be using a password manager,” Grimes says. “Whether it’s free or commercial is up to you; as long as you’re choosing a reputable manager” you should be protected.