Password Managers Are Actually a Really Good Gift

Photo: Alex Cranz (Gizmodo)

The holidays are nearly here, and that means you may be scraping up loose change in your sofa cushions for any gift-giving you plan to be doing this season. But the best gift you can give your loved ones this year—be they friends, family, or secret Santa pals—is a password manager.

Hear me out.

A Pew Research survey conducted in 2016 found that only 12 percent of respondents used a password manager. More recent research from Google and the Harris Poll found that figure hadn’t budged much, as only 15 percent of the U.S. adults polled for the survey said they used one. That means it’s very likely someone you care about isn’t using one, and if they’re not, it’s also likely they aren’t taking necessary measures to protect their accounts.

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Data breaches are an inevitable reality of our digital dystopia, which sucks. But there are steps we can take to better protect our data. Enabling two-factor authentication—and the right kind—everywhere it’s available is one way to help protect against brute-force attacks. Another way is by using unique, randomly generated passwords for each of your individual logins. Doing so makes it harder for a hacker to crack them and gain control of your account.

Ideally, you’re using strong passwords for all of your accounts—and yes, that means Netflix too. The problem, of course, is that remembering 156 long-as-hell and randomly produced passwords would be impossible for many of us, which is typically why people defer to reusing passwords or using passwords that are weak or easy to guess.

That’s where a password manager comes in. Password managers work by generating and storing all of your strong passwords in an encrypted vault that’s protected with two-factor authentication and a single passphrase. Basically, it remembers all those long, complicated passwords for you so that you don’t have to. Plus, they’re relatively cheap, and in some cases, even free. LastPass, for example, is free for up to 20 accounts and $3 per month after that for a single user. 1Password, another great service, also starts at $3 a month. In other words, you can buy the first month for everyone you know and love and still come in under $20 or less.

Here’s the other thing about password managers: Explaining how they work and why they’re important is a gift all on its own. For example, if you’re giving one to your parents or grandparents—as you absolutely should—you’ll need to spend a little time getting them set up and walking them through how to enable their password manager across their devices.

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You’re giving the gift of added security, to be sure. But you’re also giving the gift of patience. And hey, what better gift is there than that?

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