These days, it's hard for me to imagine life without password-management software. Good "password hygiene" is essential to protect my online data from prying eyes, and it would simply be impossible to handle the dozens of passwords I use every day in a safe way if all I relied on was my poor, overtaxed brain.
Alas, many users are still on the fences when it comes to a password manager; scared away by high prices and overwhelming features, they end up relying on unsafe practices that could cost them dearly if their information falls in the wrong hands.
Luckily, there are plenty of choices in this market, and the folks behind LastPass have come up with a solution that is ideal for users who want increased security with minimal effort.
Protection for all
Unlike many other password managers that store your data in a file and use third-party cloud providers like DropBox to synchronize it among different devices, LastPass is entirely Web-based. Your information is saved directly to the company's servers, from where it is readily available any time you need it.
This arrangement comes with a couple key advantages; for one thing, file-based synchronization is sometimes hard to set up, especially for those who are less experienced; in addition, saving everything on the Web means that your passwords are at your fingertips even if your computer isn't--at least as long as you have access to a browser and are connected to the Internet.
Naturally, entrusting your passwords to LastPass's cloud-based system raises some questions of privacy and trust. The company accounts for this by ensuring that all the data you pass to its service is encrypted using your master password before it actually leaves your computer. That way, LastPass has no way of snooping on your secrets, and, even if the company's servers were hacked, the criminals would have a very hard time getting their hands on it.
Extending the Web
Since there is no "client" app, most of the interaction between LastPass and its users happens inside the browser. In addition to plain-old Web access, the company helpfully makes a number of extensions available for popular browsers, including Safari, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. On a Windows machine, the system also supports Internet Explorer and can even be accessed through a System Tray widget.
The one exception to the app's reliance on a Web-based experience is iOS, where Apple's sandboxing policies require the company to offer a Universal app that, while free, is only available to users who subscribe to the company's premium offering. (You can still access your data from Safari, but you are limited to copying-and-pasting information between LastPass and other websites.)
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