Living an increasingly online lifestyle means managing an ever expanding number of accounts. From internet banking and billing and email access to online shopping, each website requires you to remember a username and a password. It’s tempting to use the same login details for each but that isn’t a good idea.
If you use the same password for each account, a fraudster needs to hack only one of your accounts, and they’ll have easy access to all your others too. What’s more, this isn’t as unlikely as you might have hoped or expected.
Most reputable websites have a high level of security and put measures in place to prevent automated scripts from gaining access to accounts by trying out common passwords at random, one after another. If you enter a wrong password several times in succession, for example, it’s likely that your bank will deny further attempts. A small online retailer might not be as security conscious which means that finding your password by trial and error might just be feasible. And if that’s the same password that you use for your bank account, you could be in big trouble.
The only sensible solution is to use a different password for each account and a different username too, for those sites which don’t use your email address as the username. It's impossible to remember so much information, though. Making a list is an option but not the safest one, especially if you carry that list around with you so that you can access your accounts on a laptop or a smartphone.
A more secure option is to keep that list in an encrypted database. This is exactly what the free, open source software KeePass does, and a whole lot more too. Here we’ll explain how to store and retrieve your login details in KeePass, and how to use enter them directly into your websites.
You can keep your KeePass database on your PC or, alternatively, store it on a USB flash drive so that you can use it on the move. It may be hard to trust free software to keep your passwords safe, but KeePass certainly will. Unlike other password managers, the database isn't stored on a server online, making it even safer.
How to manage your passwords with KeePass
1. The first step is to create a database or, if you share a PC, each user could create their own. To do this start KeePass and select New... from the File menu (select Cancel first if you’ve already created a database so the ‘Open Database’ dialogue box appears first). Enter a master password and re-type it when prompted. This will protect all your other passwords so make sure it isn't easy to guess.
2. In the blank, right-hand pane of the KeePass window, right click and select ‘Add Entry...’ from the menu. The ‘Add Entry’ dialog box is displayed and you can enter your account information for a particular website. The login details for each website must be added in this way.
3. Account details are stored in groups – initially just one called General with sub-groups Windows, Network, Internet, eMail and Homebanking but you can also create your own. In the ‘Add Entry’ dialog box, select the group from the drop-down menu at the top. Next, enter a descriptive title, a username and a URL (the website's address). You can add a note to remind you when you created this entry.
4. Delete the default password. Enter your password or click the button below the three dots button to generate one. Obviously, you'll need to update your password on the relevant website before the generated one will work. You can toggle between viewing your passwords and hiding them by clicking on the button with the three dots icon.
5. When all accounts have been added, save the database. Select Save from the File menu and then, in the Save dialogue box, enter a name in place of the default name provided, select a folder and click on Save. You could also choose different settings for the encryption algorithm (using ‘Database Settings’ in the File menu) but the default settings will suffice.
6. Next time you start KeePass, enter your master password and ensure the right database is being used. To log in to a site manually, display passwords using the appropriate entry in the View menu. Alternatively, right click an entry and select ‘Open URL(s)’ to go to the website or select ‘Perform Autotype’ to fill in the username and password if your browser is already open at the right page.