We all know that we need to use strong passwords on Web sites. In fact, a different password for every site you frequent is wise.
Good Web security hygiene creates two problems, however. First, you have to remember all those different passwords. Second, if you lose your smartphone, your many passwords may be at risk.
But there are various password manager apps meant to solve those problems. The best-known password manager app is 1Password by AgileBits. This app keeps your many Web site passwords, for your bank and so on, safely locked up. It also can keep track of other data like passport details, addresses and more.
The app has a plain yet attractive interface that makes using it a breeze, because its various icons and controls are obvious at one glance.
Tapping the "+" icon brings up a menu that offers you many data categories, like bank account numbers, e-mail details and wireless router passwords. You simply select the appropriate category and enter as much data in the boxes on the next page as you prefer. All your entries are then listed in the main app, and you can group them into folders if you want to keep work and home data separate.
1Password also has a secure browser built into it. It allows you to surf to your bank's Web site, in one typical case, where it will automatically enter your passwords for you or enter credit card details into shopping sites.
If you think your passwords are too weak, 1Password has an automatic strong password generator that will randomly put together a complex password for you. These may be harder to remember than your usual passwords but, of course, the app remembers them for you.
This app excels in security. There's a master password that protects your data, and data stored inside the app is encrypted -- which makes it safe even if someone steals your device. Its main downside is the price: It's $18 on iOS. There is a free Android version, but it's much simpler and you can't enter new data.
LastPass is an alternative password and personal data manager available on iOS and Android. It also stores Web site passwords, credit card information and more behind a master password. It's also designed with simplicity in mind: there's no getting lost in overly complex menus.
Although it's simpler than 1Password, it still has some nice features. It can upload photos or videos to "secure notes" that you store inside the app, so you can keep snippets of text or media private. It's similar to 1Password in use and quality. But there is one issue: While the app is free, to make the most of all its powers, like automatically filling in details on Web sites, you have to pay a subscription of $12 a year.
A great alternative to these two, on iOS only, is the $6 app oneSafe. This app has cuter graphics than its rivals and it offers most of the same features.
It stores passwords, credit card data and personal documents, and it locks them up securely, so if you lose your device, your data is safe. Its great design makes it easy to use, and it has a couple of nice extras. For example, if you prefer not to use a secure "master" password to access the app, you can use a pattern lock access -- where you swipe a unique pattern on the screen with your finger. It also can automatically alert you if someone tries to access your data.
A rough equivalent to oneSafe is Keeper. It's popular, and though it looks different from oneSafe, it definitely has an emphasis on ease of use through a simple design. Like 1Password and LastPass, Keeper can automatically fill in Web site logins and card data for you. It even includes a neat feature that lets you share some of your information with someone you trust. Keeper is available on Android, as well as on iOS.
To help you create really strong passwords that may foil all but the most determined hackers, you can check out the $1 iOS app Wolfram Password Generator Reference App. This app uses high-powered math to come up with tricky passwords full of numbers, letters and other characters that you can use for your accounts. It'll even tell you how long it should take to crack them.
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This article originally appeared in The New York Times. First Published October 16, 2013 2:01 PM