Your Internet Security Probably Sucks. Here’s The Simple Solution.

If like me, all of your passwords are identical, and have been since the creation of your first MSN account back in the early ‘00s (pls don’t hack me) you’re not alone.

In a world where so much of our day-to-day business is done online, the chances of having your privacy breached is greater than ever.

You could save yourself a lot of worry and a lot of time should your details be stolen, by implementing one simple tool into your online life – a password manager. If at this point you’re nodding along while quietly asking yourself, “WTF is a password manager?” – same.

Don’t sweat it though – I’ve delved deep into the world of online security to break it all down, tell you why you should get one and how to set yourself up – it takes ten minutes, tops.

OK, let’s do it.

What the heck even is a password manager?

The essential role of a password manager is to retrieve and track a bunch of crazy-long and random passwords across all of your accounts. Not only will it generate strong passwords for you, but it also protects all of your vital online info like PINs, credit card numbers and answers to security questions – all with encryption so strong it’d take a hacker forever to attempt to access your info.

To access all of this, you’ll need to remember just one single master password to unlock this vault of info. It’s important to note though, this master password should be really strong, and something you’ll remember. If someone cracks it, they’ll have access to everything.

You’ll find more tips on creating a killer master password here.

Which password manager do I choose?

Experts say there’s no need to overthink it – all password managers have the same goal, and user-friendliness is what to look out for. “What password manager you use largely comes down to your personal preferences,” Dan Guido, CEO of digital security firm Trail of Bits told Consumer Reports. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you find it easy to use so you’ll stick to it”.

The best part is, if you try one password manager and later you don’t like it, it’s no big deal. Most password managers allow you to export your data so if you’re ever unsure, you can simply delete your account and start fresh somewhere else.

What’s it going to cost me?

Pricing depends on which kind of service you opt for – some you’ll have to pay a little for, while some are free. It mostly depends on how much storage you require, the level of security and how many passwords you’d like to generate.

Password manager Dashlane has a paid subscription service of $4 per month, which syncs one account across every device while retaining current information. Alternatively, you can use the same service for free, but won’t be able to sync changes after the first month. LastPass is also a very reputable brand, and completely free.

Whether you choose to pay or not, these options offer super-strong security: AES-256 encryption, the same that’s used by the federal government to protect classified information.

Where are my passwords stored?

There are two ways they store your info: locally or cloud-based. Basically, you can either keep all your passwords on your laptop’s storage drive, or remotely on a company’s server.

Again, which you choose is totally up to you. The cloud freaks some people out, regardless of a company’s security measures and policies. Don’t get me wrong – scammers are out there, but a legit password manager isn’t about to steal all your deets. Stuff that’s stored in the cloud is still encrypted and only accessible with your master password.

If you’re still worried, it’s not a worry – you can store your stuff locally. The only dilemma here is if your computer crashes or is stolen, you run the chance of losing your data.

How do I get set up?  

Download and install the software to your computer and add the extension to your browser. Here, you’ll be able to easily access all of your information from your desktop.

For your convenience, there are also apps available for your phone that securely stores all of your info, for easy access wherever you are.

How do I use it?

A typical password manager will have an app for your phone and a browser extension for your computer, allowing you to copy and paste or even auto-fill your passwords for common sites when you go to log in.

It means you don’t have to remember different passwords for everything, but can still easily have different passwords for everything, so if one site’s password gets stolen the other parts of your online life is protected.

LastPass’s chrome extension is particularly great, and will suggest you add new sites to your manager whenever you log in somewhere, which means you can gradually add new passwords to your vault.

There are simple preventable measures you can take to ensure your online security isn’t breached, and it pays to be prepared. Hopefully now that you’re all clued up you can choose a password manager that’s right for you and feel more protected online.

Bradley is a writer from Newcastle who enjoys travel, Tina Fey and is a connoisseur of cheap red wine.