Q: I’m interested in the articles you’ve written about password managers. I think along with your recommendations should be some information about why you feel these are so secure.
I imagine right now the hackers are busily looking for ways to break into these systems and steal not just a password but every one that each subscriber has on file.
Can you comment on this concern?
— Joe Townsend, Redmond
A: Good password managers, including LastPass, employ a “zero knowledge” security model. That means data is stored in three different repositories — encrypted users’ data, users’ passwords to their LastPass manager, and encryption keys. A hacker would have to get past defenses on all three repositories to get access to your information.
While that is of course in theory possible, it’s certainly more likely that a hacker could get through the defenses on your computers or mine. Like many users, out of laziness I used to keep user names and passwords in a Word file on my computer. Anyone who got past consumer-level defenses would have had easy access to all my online accounts.
Even worse, many users I know (and I won’t name names but some are in my family) use the same easy-to-remember password on all sites. Guess the password and … well, you get the idea.
By the way, there are programs that hackers can use to cycle through common password patterns until they hit on yours. That’s why sensitive sites limit the number of password attempts and lock access if that number is exceeded. But if you’re using the same password on multiple sites and a hacker is able to run the program on a site that doesn’t limit the number of attempts … well again, you get the idea.
Yes, there’s no 100% guarantee of security with password managers. But they offer much greater security than the alternatives.
Q: I took your advice and signed up for LastPass. The site is extremely confusing and I am having trouble navigating. I can’t figure how to enter a particular password for a particular program.
I have around 60 programs with passwords. For many I have just the password for the site, for others my ID for the site. LastPass should have a tutorial to get me started. Instead they have all these flashy symbols with no navigation among them.
Can you suggest a simpler password manager?
— Ray Ruhlen
A: Actually, once you’re signed up for LastPass and installed the LastPass add-on in your browser, whenever you log into a website LastPass will offer to save your login information.
As far as that goes, most browsers these days offer the same capability and if that’s all the functionality you want, I recommend you just use the built-in tool.
What a good password manager also offers in addition, however, is easy generation of really strong passwords, access to your passwords when you’re on a different computer, and other features such as the ability to share passwords with trusted others.
Finally, LastPass does offer a number of tutorials. You’ll find them here.
Bear in mind, though, that LastPass doesn’t save login information for accessing programs on your computer. It’s strictly for web browsing.
Q: I have an old Samsung netbook with a x64-based processor. I upgraded to Windows 10 years ago when it was offered free. The system info says that Windows 10 is a 32-bit operating system.
While it has been used only when I fly, and great worldwide, it is quite sluggish. Would upgrading to a Windows 10 64-bit system be possible and make it speedier?
— Don Starr, Blaine
A: Yes, if your computer has a 64-bit processor you’ll see better performance running a 64-bit operating system. The main reason for the better performance is that the 32-bit version of Windows can really only use up to 4 gigabytes of your computer’s random access memory at once. The 64-bit version can access up to 2 terabytes (or 128GB).
Be aware, though, that if you upgrading from the 32-bit version to the 64-bit version of Windows, the process will involve reformatting your hard drive and reinstalling all the programs you have installed.