In last week’s episode of our “What Does This Button Do?” show, we covered LastPass. See Episode 205: Password Managers – how to use LastPass. Please watch that show to learn more details about LastPass. This article will tell you how to get started on computers and mobile devices.
In today’s world where we all have dozens, if not hundreds, of passwords to remember, we think it is crucial to use a password manager. If you’re counting on yourself to create and remember your passwords, you’re probably using passwords that are too simple, and you’re likely using the same password for multiple sites. Using a password manager, like LastPass, means that you can have long, complex passwords that are different for every site because LastPass is remembering them for you. All you need to remember is the one master password.
There are many good password managers out there, LastPass is the one that we use, so that’s what we teach.
How to get started on a computer
First, you need a LastPass account. Just go to LastPass.com and click the big red button to “Get LastPass Free.” You can start with the free account and later graduate to one of their paid plans. We use Family plan account type for $4/mo. This includes 6 individual licenses, plus the ability to share folders of passwords. My husband and I have separate accounts, but put many passwords in shared folders. If either of us should change the password, it gets changed in that folder for both of us.
Once you have an account, you need it to remember all your current passwords. All you do is visit accounts like you normally do. LastPass will notice when you are typing in a password and offer to save it for you. The next time it will fill the password in for you. You can also manually type them in.
Getting started on mobile devices
A major benefit of using LastPass is that it works on your phones and tablets as well as your computer. You just install the LastPass app on your Android or Apple phone, make sure you’re signed in with the same Master Password that you created. Now when you visit a website that needs a username and password, you should see a way to ask LastPass to fill them in for you.
LastPass can even fill in usernames and passwords for Apps on your device. Here’s a video where you can see it in action.
It’s important to spend time learning
One word of caution. Password management is serious stuff. You need to take learning LastPass seriously. If you’re not paying attention, it is easy to overwrite or delete passwords. For example, I have a couple of sites where, after filling in the username and password, they give me another challenge like “What was the make of your first car?” or “What is your favorite food?” Once I answer “ice cream” LastPass pops up and asks if I want to update that website’s entry. If I mindlessly click on OK, I have just overwritten my password with “ice cream.” I need to pay attention and know NOT to update in that situation.
There’s lots of articles, guides, and tutorial videos available on the LastPass Support page.
Getting rid of passwords altogether
If you think that having hundreds of different passwords is an unsustainable proposition, you’re not alone. There is lots of work being done to have other ways to prove our identity. One that is gaining traction is called “Federated Identity Providers.” For example, most people have a Google account, and Google takes great care to make sure we keep our accounts secure. This means that other websites trust that you are who you say you are in your Google account. “Sign in with Google” is now allowed on many sites in lieu of creating your own username and password on that account. Here’s a video that shows you how it’s done.