What if I told you that your browser’s saved passwords weren’t nearly as secure as you thought?
If you use Google Chrome (and you should, because it’s pretty regularly rated as the best browser you can use), anyone can uncover any of your saved passwords with a single click. Now, if you’re like me and have a computer that only you use, that’s not a big issue. But for anyone who shares a computer or uses an even remotely public computer? That’s scary stuff. A writer on the Guardian said that he could uncover 52 passwords in 57 seconds, adding, “I’m an amateur at this hacking stuff.”
In under a minute, anyone can go into Chrome’s settings and click “Show” next to a site with a saved password. That’s all it takes for someone to get the info they need to forever ruin your online persona – a few clicks and virtually no time at all. Chrome may be a great browser, but it’s certainly not the most private on a shared computer. Don’t worry, though: there are other options.
Firefox’s ‘Master Password’
My personal browser of choice is Firefox. I’ve been using Firefox since before Chrome was a thing, even though I know Chrome is quicker and (usually) less of a resource hog. I won’t spend time comparing the two browsers, but if you’re using Chrome and this startling lack of security is enough to scare you into a switch, Firefox might be a good place to wind up.
Firefox has a feature called ‘Master Password.’ Easily found in the Security settings of the browser’s options, it’s simple and effective. It’s built directly into the browser. You don’t need to install any plug-ins or third-party programs to make use of it, and you don’t have to pay a dime. It protects you in two ways: it won’t use a saved password to log into a site without first typing in the master password, nor will it let anyone see your saved passwords in the settings menu without first gaining access.
But maybe you don’t use Firefox and don’t want to make the switch. Maybe you’ve grown so attached to Chrome that you can’t picture life without it. Whatever your reason, there are third-party programs that can help secure your logins.
One program I recently tried was RoboForm, which links to your browsers and stores your login information more securely behind its own master password. It works on multiple browsers and multiple platforms (both desktop and mobile) and offers one-click form filling, mobile support and access from anywhere. My experience using it last week was nothing but positive, and it’s very intuitive.
RoboForm has three tiers of its program available: Free, Everywhere and Desktop.
- The free version gives you access on multiple computers and mobile devices, all in sync, for up to 10 logins. We all have far, far more than 10 logins. RoboForm Free probably isn’t a permanent option for you (unless you just want to protect a handful of your most prized accounts), but it’s a great way to try the program without a commitment. It works on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, and keeps your logins synced across all platforms.
- The “Everywhere” tier costs $9.95/year (it looks like it’s on sale from its normal price of $19.95/year) and is the free version with no restrictions. It offers unlimited passwords and bookmarks, unlimited form filling and Safenotes, and unlimited sync and backup. If you like what the free version provides and want to keep all of your devices in sync, ‘Everywhere’ seems like a solid choice.
- The final option is the “Desktop” tier, which has a one-time fee of $29.95 for one license (and $9.95 for each license after that). This option doesn’t offer mobile support, but instead focuses on “single computer use without online storage or syncing” and is “perfect for single computer users” according to RoboForm’s site.
Ultimately, your logins and passwords are your own responsibility. If you don’t feel the need to ramp up security and inconvenience yourself with a master password, that’s your prerogative. But if you want that extra layer of security, switching to Firefox or using a program like RoboForm is a good way to defend yourself.
A dedicated enough hacker will uncover your saved passwords no matter how secure they are, but you don’t leave your front door open when you go out for the night, do you?