Security

Five handy tools for dealing with passwords

Managing strong passwords is a challenge for users as well as admins. These apps can help make password life a bit easier.

Passwords have been around for almost as long as computers have been. Even today, however, there are challenges associated with password use. For example, a user might forget a password or require more granular security than a standard login provides. Whatever the challenge, a number of utilities are available for working with passwords.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: Windows Password Key Standard

Windows Password Key Standard (Figure A) is a tool for recovering lost Windows administrative passwords. Unlike password crackers, this tool is not designed to decrypt the administrative password, nor can it be used as a hacking tool. Instead, it allows the administrator to create a DVD that can be used to reset the administrative password for a specific machine in the event that the machine's password is lost. A USB flash drive can be used as an alternative to a DVD.

Figure A

Figure A

Although some versions of Windows already have a built-in option to create a password reset disk, Windows Password Key Standard simplifies the process and works with multiple Windows versions.

Windows Password Key Standard sells for $19.95, but a free trial is available for download.

2: Kruptos 2 Professional

Kruptos 2 Professional (Figure B) is designed to password protect a user's data. Although Windows password protects user sessions, there are situations in which a user may require extra security. This is especially true for shared computers on which data is stored locally.

Figure B

Figure B

Kruptos 2 Professional works by setting up a data "vault." Users can protect files by moving them to the vault, which encrypts and password protects the files within.

Kruptos 2 Professional sells for $34.95, but a free trial version is available for download.

3: 2 Password

2 Password (Figure C) is a free tool that is sometimes mis-advertised as a password cracker. However, this tool does nothing to crack passwords. Instead, its purpose is to help those who are keyboard challenged. We've all seen password prompts that display asterisks instead of the characters that are actually being typed. This utility forces the actual keystrokes to be revealed as a password is entered.

Figure C

Figure C

2 Password probably should not be employed for day-to-day use because exposing passwords on screen can increase the chances of the password being compromised. Even so, it does have its place. For example, imagine that an administrator wants to assign a complex, 32-character password to a Wi-Fi access point. A tool like this could help the administrator to avoid making typos when assigning the password for the first time.

4: Quicky Password Generator

Quicky Password Generator (Figure D) is a free tool for generating random passwords. It lets you choose the password length and some password attributes, such as whether you want to use special characters.

Figure D

Figure D

The really cool thing about this tool is that you can use it to generate a single password or to bulk-generate large numbers of passwords. If you create a large number of passwords, you can save them to a text file so that they can be imported by another program.

5: LastPass Password Manager

LastPass Password Manager (Figure E) is a free tool for managing passwords. After you installing it, you're prompted to enter a master password (which is evaluated for its strength) and a password hint. The program then checks your computer for any passwords that have been previously used. LastPass is especially good at finding website passwords.

Figure E

Figure E

Upon completion of the password discovery process, you have the option of importing those passwords. LastPass will also manage any passwords you enter in the future.

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