Secure All Your Passwords with KeePass

The benefits of going online and moving to the cloud are dogged down by the fear of compromising one’s personal and professional information. Identity thieves are having a ball of a time these days, as they don’t have to put in much effort to gather identity data. With birthdays, anniversary dates and lame passwords like “pass123”, it’s like snatching candy from a kid for them.

It isn’t like there are any real solutions to keep your passwords and other sensitive data secure. A bunch of paid and free apps are available for every operating system (many of them cross platform, so you won’t miss anything). KeePass is a pioneer in the domain of securing passwords and after the break, let’s see how to tap it to our benefit.

Installation and Set Up

At 2MB, KeePass is a very light download and the installation is pretty straightforward as well. Offering three different installation options (Complete, compact and custom) might confuse newbies a bit and if you are in doubt go with the full installation (despite the name full, it takes only 5 MB of the disk space.)

Installation Options

Installation Options

In the same vein, I don’t understand the need for asking users if they want to associate the app with .kdbx files, even after choosing a full installation.

Ease of Use

Empty User Interface

Empty User Interface

Upon first launch, the app looks hauntingly empty and the developers should consider offering a demo database with dummy information to help jumpstart things. But it really isn’t hard to create and populate a database. To secure your passwords, the app offers three unique methods, but it isn’t mandatory that all three have to be put to use.

The first and foremost step is the creation of a master password to encrypt the database. Use a combination of alphabets, numbers and special characters to make the password unbreakable. The password strength indicator is a great way to ascertain the strength of the master password and given the fact that this will probably be the only password you will have to remember, it shouldn’t hurt to make it long and complicated.

Creating Composite Master Key

Creating Composite Master Key

As a second layer of protection, you can link a keyfile to the database. That way, you can be sure that even if the password is compromised, the database will still be locked down until the hacker finds what the keyfile is.

Windows account integration is the complicated third option and to their credit, the developers make it very clear that recovering the database if you choose this option (in case you delete the user account) isn’t going to be easy. So unless you know what you are doing, stick to either the one or both of the first two options.

Customizing the Database

Database Settings

Database Settings

After adding a name and description to the database, you can associate a color code to it. Color codes will come in handy if you plan to use multiple databases. If you hit OK, the app will use the default settings (which are actually pretty solid). However, you can jump through the tabs to choose the encryption algorithm, compression methods, protected fields and so forth.

Sample Entries

Sample Entries

At this juncture, I have to take back my words – the app does create sample data once you create a new database. You might feel that there are quite too many steps before you can actually start storing passwords, I felt the same way too. But remember it’s a one time setup and plays a major role in securing all your sensitive data.

Groups & Passwords

Adding an Entry

Adding an Entry

Storing a password is as simple as it gets. Just copy the URL, username and the password. If you are really picky, there is a whole lot of customization options here too, including the ability to add an expiry date to the entry. Eventhough they look dated, the icons make a nice addition to each entry.

Generating a Password

Generating a Password

Amongst all the awesome features KeePass, I was particularly impressed with the password generator. In addition to the standard set of options we have come to expect from password generators, the ability to employ custom algorithms and patterns are fabulous additions. I wonder why the password strength indicator is missing while generating the passwords though!

KeePass supports adding multiple passwords to groups out of the box. This way, you can store all your banking account logins, email accounts, social network accounts etc. separately. The beauty is each group can have its own settings when it comes to passwords stored in them.

KeePass uses the popular CSV export format that various password storing apps available in the market use, making it hasslefree to import the exported password databases to your KeePass databases.

Final Thoughts

Being an open source enthusiast, it shouldn’t be surprising that I make a strong case promoting KeePass. But even if it weren’t free and open, the app is so feature rich and secure. It deserves a round of applause for keeping things simple, helping even the non tech savvy users secure their sensitive information. True, it might not be the prettiest looking app, but that’s the only complaint anyone could come up.

Thanks to an active group of contributors, if you carry the KeePass database along, you can access the passwords from any platform. Syncing password across multiple devices could be a pain, but by hacking together Dropbox and LastPass (or storing in your webserver via FTP), you won’t miss a beat. Do let us know how you secure your passwords and if there is a better alternative to KeePass!


Summary

KeePass is a free, open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way.

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