Patrick Marshall answers your personal technology questions each week.
Q: I try to use strong passwords but it gets to be a real pain, especially if, as I’m constantly advised, I’m not to use the same password on multiple sites. How secure are password managers and will one really make this whole password thing easier to deal with?
— A. Kaars
A: Actually, for a couple of reasons that I’ll get to shortly, I finally broke down recently and subscribed to a password manager. I had previously been using the password managers in the various browsers I use, but they are limited in their capabilities. Firefox’s password manager, for example, will remember the user name and password that I use on a site, but if you use the same passwords on multiple sites and one of those sites gets hacked you’ll be vulnerable on those other sites as well.
I was making an effort to use unique passwords, but that meant I had to keep those stored somewhere in case I needed to log in from another computer. And keeping those in a document on my computer didn’t seem like a smart move security-wise.
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So I did a little research and subscribed to LastPass. It not only remembers logins and stores them in encrypted files in the cloud, it also offers a digital wallet that you can use to simplify the process of making purchases online. What’s more, you can use LastPass’ password generator to create unique and strong passwords. And when you feel it’s time to change the password, all it takes is a click of a button in the LastPass vault.
You can also add “trusted devices” — other computers and smartphones that can access your LastPass account.
I chose to subscribe to the family version of LastPass, which allows me to share logins for a specified site with others. You can also specify others who you want to have access to your passwords in an emergency. If they try to access your vault and you don’t respond to block them within a specified amount of time, they’ll have access.
Q: I have a Dell Inspiron B120 running Windows XP. Plan to upgrade soon. I’m using Firefox. I keep getting unresponsive script error messages. They pop up almost every time, and the computer fails to respond even after I stop the script. After about a minute it starts working again. Any thoughts about what could be causing this?
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A: Unresponsive script errors result when a script running on a webpage hits a snag. It may be trying to call on a service that isn’t present on your computer, for example. The older your operating system and the older the version of your browser, the more likely it is that you’re going to get those problems.
So yes, I do recommend that you upgrade your version of Windows soon. And in the meantime, at least make sure that you’re using the latest version of Firefox.