The ability to remember user names and passwords, and even fill out online forms, is not new. In fact, it has been built into web browsers for sometime now. However, thanks to notoriously bad implementation by Firefox, which makes all of the data easy to view via the Settings, and people tending to use the same passwords over and over on multiple sites, many have become easy targets for hackers.
One easy and free way of solving this issue is to use a password management tool and there are several fine ones on the market, although not all of them are actually free. My favorite, and one that has been recommended by several security experts, is called LastPass.
There is also a “Premium” version of the software available which costs $1 per month. This allows customers to use the program on mobile devices — and it works with pretty much EVERY mobile operating system and browser that you could possibly think of, from mainstream to obscure to dead ones like Windows Mobile. It is also ad-free.
In setup you will have a choice of a number of different languages. You will also notice that it detects all installed web browsers and prompts you to activate a plugin for each one. All of them will need to be closed during setup.
There are several other minor setup options and then all of your data stored in various browsers will be imported into LastPass, where it is encrypted. You will have the option to leave some or all of it stored in a browser, but that would defeat the purpose of using this program.
How it Works
As I stated previously, the app installs extensions for each browser it finds on your computer. The extension provides options to give you control over how it works.
For instance, if you are using the Google Chrome web browser (which we will in this example) there are couple of ways to access LastPass. An icon that will be placed on your menu bar and access from tools =>extensions.
Let us start with the menu bar icon. When you click this you will see your logon and a list of options that includes almost everything you will need to control your account.
- My LastPass Vault
- Recently Used
- Secure Notes
- Fill Forms
- Get Premium
- Save All Entered Data
At the bottom you will find the login information for the account or web page you are currently on. If you share the computer with your family then services like Google may show multiple logins for each account.
Now let us look at what a few of these menu items do. First up is “My LastPass Vault”. This will take you to a web site that displays a number of options. Across the top are – Vault, Form Fill Profiles, Identities, Shares, Credit Monitoring, Enterprise and Video. There is also menu down the left side for Settings, Add Profile, User Manual and Security Check.
These options are mostly self-explanatory, but the most useful for most users will likely be the Form Fill. Here you can add all of the information that you don’t want to have to fill in on every website, such as name, email, address, phone number, credit card information and more.
Sites provides information on every single web site where you have a registered account. Preferences provides a list of options for notifications, setting hot keys and more advanced settings.
Tools gives you a long list of settings, including:
- Generate Secure Password (I personally recommend using this)
- Site Search
- Recheck Page
- Refresh Sites
- Import From
- Export To
- Check for Updates
- Clear Local Cache
- Security Check
- Other Sessions
- Add Site
- Add Secure Note
Users can also check version number and look for updates from this menu.
Options can be accessed by going to the “Settings” menu and clicking on “Tools” and then “Extensions” (bear in mid this is using Chrome as the web browser). Scroll down to find LastPass and click the “Options” link.
This will take you to a web site that is the same as Preferences in the Tools menu that I covered earlier. There is virtually no difference — it is just a different method of reaching the same place. Personal preference I suppose.
In some quick tests using both Firefox and Internet Explorer I found no real difference in how the extension works in each browser. All menu items and options are essentially exactly the same. I did not, however, try this out with either Safari or Opera, but if one of you has then please let us know how it works in the comments below.
While there are a number of these services on the market, and several have been reviewed right here on AppStorm, I would highly recommend being very careful in choosing one. Check what legitimate security experts are saying about the program. Study the encryption methods. This is not a decision to be made lightly — a bad decision here can result in stolen data and compromised accounts in rather important places, like email and banking accounts.
LastPass is, by no means, the only legitimate password and form-filling option available. However it has been tested and recommended by multiple trusted sources so, if nothing else, it can, at least, be trusted with your data. It is also cross-platform, meaning computer and mobile, as well as numerous platforms for each. To boot, it is free unless you choose to upgrade for the added features.