Using LastPass to Store Sensitive Information Digitally
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
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Do you use the same default password for every website? Do you have passwords written down or stored in a file? Do you get so creative with new passwords that you forget them as soon as you hit enter? Do you have a family member with access to sensitive data if anything were to happen to you?
Between our work and personal lives, there’s no shortage of passwords to remember.
Digg recently updated their list of the most common passwords.
The top five included:
At least it’s not just “1234,” but let’s still not try to let our passwords make the list. But seriously, who would use “12345” as a password for their brokerage account? (or anything else for that matter?) The first 5 numbers on the keyboard could be what cause you to lose everything. Keep that in mind.
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Also trending is the password “donald.” Equally lacking in creativity, wouldn’t you say?
There are two main reasons why the two of us decided to finally take digital security more seriously and start using a password manager:
We got engaged - We have so many more shared logins now.
We decided to travel abroad for a year - Everything must be digital.
How it works
Create an account - you can start with a free account and only upgrade if you need additional features.
Set a master password - this will allow you to access your “vault” where all other information is stored. SO MAKE IT STRONG. This is the only password you’ll actually need to remember so don’t make it too complex. Strength and complexity are not explicitly linked.
Install the LastPass browser extension - our preferred browser is Chrome but there are extensions for other browsers as well.
Import passwords from your browser (if you have been saving them there)
Manually add other important passwords (goodbye post-it note stuck to your computer monitor)
Enjoy a more secure, more efficient digital experience!
All of your data is stored in what LastPass refers to as a “vault” (probably to reassure users that it is secure...great branding, LastPass). The view of your vault will look something like this:
While technically LastPass is considered a password manager, it allows you to save more than just passwords.
Saving Payment Methods (i.e. credit or debit card numbers) is particularly convenient if you do a lot of online shopping.
You can also save a Note, which is the most generic type of item in LastPass. Basically it’s just text that is stored securely. Can you remember your driver’s license number off the top of your head? Not many people can. What if you lost it and needed to know that information? By storing it in LastPass, it’s only a master password away.
The next feature is one of our favorites…
LastPass will generate complex passwords for you. No more need to be so creative that you forget the password you came up with!
Since you installed the LastPass browser extension (you did do that, didn’t you?) select the LastPass icon and then Generate Secure Password.
Notice that LastPass allows you to set the criteria for the password it generates since some websites are stricter than others.
Simply click the ‘recycle/refresh’ icon to generate a different password if you don’t like the first one for any reason.
Now that you know the basics of signing up and using LastPass, we want to address a couple of common concerns with using LastPass and password managers in general.
Q: What happens if LastPass gets hacked? At least the hackers have to work to get all of my information today. If it’s all in one place, isn’t that riskier?
A: According to their website, “LastPass experienced a single security incident in our 10-year history, back in 2015. Bottom line, no encrypted vault data was compromised.” For those of you more interested in how their security tech actually works, check out this article.
Q: How do I share items with other users?
A: Sharing items is not part of the free account currently. It’s part of LastPass Family, which costs $48 per year at present and includes up to 6 licenses. Netflix password, anyone? WiFi password at home? There are actually quite a few instances when we share passwords. The really convenient part is that if one of us ever changes a password, LastPass updates that item and we’re both still current on the latest login info.
Q: I use my smartphone much more often than a computer. Does LastPass have a mobile app?
A: Absolutely. LastPass Password Manager is available in the Play Store (for android) and the Apple store. It has a user rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars with over 100,000 users responding. We both own a Google Pixel 2 (and are strong proponents of the Google Fi service) and have had zero problems using the LastPass mobile app. It works seamlessly between desktop and mobile.
Q: Can you set an emergency contact?
A: Yes. You have the option to set one or more emergency contacts. Luckily we haven’t had to utilize the emergency features of LastPass but we think at the very least they would be better than not having passwords stored in a single location (securely) in the first place! “Hey, does anyone know where Uncle Bob did his banking?” Morbid? Perhaps. Realistic? You betcha. Suggested emergency contacts are people who you trust, are responsible, and don’t live with you. (Honestly, if something wipes out your entire town, it’s probably the zombie apocalypse and it won’t matter who your LastPass emergency contact was...)
Q: Is there anything that you don’t like about LastPass?
A: The UI (how the web page and app are laid out) leaves a bit to be desired. While people don’t browse LastPass as they would Facebook or Instagram, we still think you should be able to filter lists, sort by a column header, and generally rearrange things to your liking. LastPass allows you to organize your information into folders, which can come in handy, but that’s about the extent of it’s custom organization options. Also, LastPass doesn’t have a desktop version of their app. It requires web access. (Not a problem for most people, but wanted to mention it for the doomsday preppers who are off the grid.)
If you’ve read this far and are still itching to know more, we recommend checking out this article from PCMag which compares and contrasts all of the top password managers on the market.
If nothing else, we hope you consider digital security more seriously than you did before reading our post. With the way the world works today, it’s a requirement unless you want your identity stolen and your accounts cleaned out.
-Eddie & Megan
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