Untangle your online password mess with LastPass

Untangle your online password mess with LastPass

Keeping track of your existing passwords is a chore, and pursuing financial independence (FI) will likely encourage you to open new accounts. These new accounts will require even more login credentials. More logins to remember? Yikes. To simplify your life–and to eliminate the security risk of reusing login credentials on multiple accounts–use LastPass.

(Disclaimer – I am a LastPass affiliate and will be compensated if you purchase one of their products).

What is LastPass?

LastPass is an online password management system. It stores the usernames and passwords for your various accounts so that you don’t have to remember them. I briefly tried using LastPass about a year before actually adopting it, and somehow (operator error and impatience) didn’t understand how to correctly use it on my iPhone. The result? I quickly gave up and resigned myself to another year of password chaos and vulnerability. To avoid the same folly, you’ll want to understand the three ways you interface with LastPass: a browser extension, the online “vault,” and a smartphone app.

Interface 1: Browser Extension

LastPass has browser extensions for the popular web browsers. Once you install the extension, you will see a LastPass icon near the top right of your browser screen. Clicking the icon allows you to:

  1. Log in and out of your LastPass account
  2. Open your Vault (see below)
  3. Perform some of the functions available in the Vault
  4. Generate secure, random passwords for accounts

One of my favorite aspects of the browser extension is that once you log into it, it will automatically ping you to save the login credentials for any new accounts you log into. Similarly, it will automatically ping you to save any passwords you change for existing accounts. Just take a brief moment to review the credentials it is proposing to save.

Interface 2: LastPass Vault

The LastPass Vault opens in a browser window, and the easiest way to open your Vault is through the browser extension. The Vault allows you to:

  1. View and launch your saved login credentials. The launch feature is nice because it ensures you go to the correct website, and not a fraudulent copycat.
  2. Enter/view secure notes, such as a passport number or insurance information, that you may need to access remotely. My wife and I also use this to store any credit cards that are eligible for a signup bonus so that we can both access the card info for any online payments that we want to count towards the minimum spend requirement.
  3. Manage shared login credentials and notes if you have a shared family plan. This feature is crucial for us, because I handle (and occasionally mishandle) the personal finances for both myself and my wife, so I need access to her financial accounts.
  4. Set up emergency access, where a trusted person can be granted access to your LastPass account in the event of an emergency. During set-up, you select the number of days you want to allow yourself to deny their access. If you do not deny their access within this window, they will be able to access your account. Clearly, you only want to do this with someone you really trust.
  5. Manage your account and plan.
  6. Change the passwords on certain accounts in bulk with one click. Of the websites I currently store in LastPass, only Facebook and PayPal offer this service, but I expect it will expand over time.

Interface 3: LastPass Smartphone App

Once you install and login to the LastPass smartphone app, it works much like your online vault. Initially I didn’t understand how to use LastPass to access other apps, and unfortunately I didn’t adopt LastPass on the first try. However, I have since learned how to use the mobile app, and LastPass has also added a new and improved way to access your accounts on your phone:

  1. New and improved way: Follow LastPass’ directions to enable automatic credential entry for smartphone apps. Then, you when initially attempt to login to an app, you can direct it to open the LastPass app where you can securely select the appropriate credentials.
  2. Old way: You can easily copy username and passwords from the LastPass app, and then simply paste them into the app you are trying to launch.

With either method, if you have enabled a biometric login (fingerprint or face ID) on an app, you only need to enter the credentials from LastPass on the initial login. Similarly, the LastPass app allows biometric login.

If you need to access an account through your phone’s web browser instead of an app, you can also use either of the two methods above. This is helpful for accounts that either don’t have an app or have an app with limited functionality.

My success with LastPass

The table below shows that since pursuing financial independence (FI), we have nearly doubled our number of accounts. There is no way we would have opened this many accounts without LastPass, and this is why I recommend LastPass as an essential tool.

LastPass Accounts
Old accounts59
Post-FI accounts42
Total accounts101
Total headaches0

Downsides of an online password manager

To me, the pros of an online password manager for outweigh the cons. Nonetheless, there are a few important points to consider:

  1. To access your password manager, you still need to remember one really strong password. LastPass will provide you with guidelines to create a long password that is easy for you to remember and very difficult for hackers to hack.
  2. There is a possibility that an online password manager could be involved in a data breach. However, if you are like I was, then you have a limited number of password schemes, and your accounts already have this risk. Further, at least if your online password manager was breached, you could quickly login and update all of your accounts from one centralized area much more quickly and completely than otherwise. So I argue that using a password manager still reduces this risk.

Other password management options

LastPass is not the only online password manager, and online password managers are not the only option. If you are interested in offline password managers, I suggest reading this blog post from Seonwoo Lee. This is the same post that convinced me to use LastPass.

In summary

LastPass, is a great way to optimize the important–although mundane–task of using secure login credentials. I highly encourage you to sign up for LastPass as soon as possible to start protecting your accounts. If this sounds like too much work, you can sign up now and just systematically add your accounts over the course of a few weeks or months. I am still consistently finding accounts that I need to add.

(Disclaimer – I am a LastPass affiliate and will be compensated if you purchase one of their products).

 

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