You’ve probably heard of password managers. They have been touted for reducing stress and enhancing organization and ease of use when attempting to remember your password. Protecting your passwords is one of the most important things you can do to prevent unauthorized access to sensitive data. Many tools on the market aim to help you build safe password practices into your business processes, but as with any technology tool, not all password solutions are equally effective.
This has become clearly evident in recent years as we have seen multiple data breaches of password managers. In light of these widely publicized security incidents, many companies have questions about the effectiveness of password managers in general and of specific tools in particular as they evaluate current providers and options.
Ultimately, those questions all boil down to one primary concern: Are password managers safe?
Yes, Password Managers Are Safe
The good news is that overall, password managers are safe to use. The basic function of a password manager is to generate and store strong, unique passwords in an encrypted vault, accessible through a master password. This is a critical way to boost the security of your accounts and passwords, ensuring that users don’t create vulnerabilities through duplicate passwords, weak passwords, or password sharing.
Password managers provide a user-friendly way to enforce password best practices across your organization and protect against outside threats. However, not all password managers are equally effective.
What Are the Risks?
While password managers do play an important role in a well-designed cybersecurity strategy, they are not a total solution by themselves. In addition, an individual password manager solution may have inherent vulnerabilities resulting from the provider’s specific processes. Let’s take a look at some of the key risks you should be aware of:
- Weak Encryption Practices – Some password managers encrypt only the password information, but not associated data such as email addresses, URLs, and notes. This leaves a lot of valuable data exposed, and threat actors can use this information for phishing scams and other attacks.
- Single Layer of Security – Password managers offer an important layer of security, but they are just one element of a robust cybersecurity strategy. It’s important to use your password manager in conjunction with other tools like privilege access management, multi-factor authentication, biometric authentication and single sign-on.
- Device Vulnerabilities – If a device becomes infected with malware, it can open the door for your password manager to be hacked. For example, keystroke logging malware can give hackers access to your master password, which then unlocks the entire vault.
Best Practices for Effective Password Management
Despite the risks, a password manager is, in general, an excellent and critical tool to keep your passwords secure. As with any tool, however, its effectiveness will depend on how well it is designed and implemented.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
Use a password manager as part of a broader cybersecurity strategy that includes people, processes, and technology.
- Effective cybersecurity extends beyond technology. To achieve the highest security, you’ll need a comprehensive strategy that includes well-defined policies and processes, password best practices, and employee training to minimize human error. Your strategy should also include sufficient cybersecurity insurance to cover losses in the event of a security incident. Once you have your policies and processes laid out, you’ll be able to choose the best technology to implement your strategy and keep your data safe.
Do your homework before choosing a password manager.
- Check to be sure the tool uses strong encryption practices. All data should be encrypted, not just the passwords themselves. This is one of the most important steps you can take to minimize the risk of a data breach through your password manager.
Use PAM in tandem with your password manager to protect privileged accounts.
- Password managers and PAM solutions work together to provide multi-layered protection and prevent breaches. Password managers ensure that you have strong, encrypted passwords, and PAM solutions serve as gatekeepers to your admin accounts. Together, they can greatly reduce your risk of an attack.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) and single sign-on (SSO) to protect your master password.
- While password managers are critical tools, they work best when layered with other security practices and solutions. According to the Center for Internet Security, MFA should be the first choice for all authentication purposes. Be sure your password manager can work with MFA and SSO solutions to protect your master password and add depth to your security protocols.
At CyberFox, we always recommend using multiple tools and layers of security to elevate protection and minimize risk. Our password management and privilege access management tools are designed to give you a strong foundation for protecting your most important data and assets. Contact us today to learn how we keep your data safe!