December 21, 2012, 11:34 AM — For a security mechanism that has existed since mankind traded places with apes to raise to the top of the food chain, passwords have shown a surprising longevity. Passwords act as gatekeepers to our email, banking, social media accounts, and just about anything else that we do, regardless of whether we are online or not.
Unfortunately, humans are not very good at either creating or remembering passwords. Left to our own devices, we tend to pick passwords that are easy for us to remember, which is good, but also easy for others to guess, which isn't good. For this reason, Web developers try to gently coerce us into adopting more secure password generation habits by enforcing an ever-increasing set of rules on their sites: Your password must be at least eight characters long, contain one or more uppercase characters, a symbol, a smiley, and be typed standing on your left foot under a full moon while sacrificing a chicken...
Alas, all these restrictions make passwords difficult to remember, and our predictably poor response is to come up with one "good" password, which we keep reusing over and over again. The problem with this approach is that anyone who knows or learns this password can also gain access to all our other accounts--and if you use the same password to post photos on a social network and do your banking, it's easy to see where trouble might arise.
This is a very serious problem; according to a survey conducted by security firm CSID, 61% of Americans--nearly two out of every three people--admit to using the same password on different sites. And, to make things worse, many write that one password down and stash it in a wallet, or store it in a plain-text file on the computer, where it is up for grabs for anyone bold enough to make a move.
The immovable portable vault
As a researcher once said, the ideal password is one that is hard to guess, impossible to write down, and can only be used in one place. This combination of requirements is very hard for a human to achieve, but AgileBits's 1Password 4 makes it an absolute breeze.
1Password 4 is the latest entry in the company's long-running family of password management software. As a Universal app, it runs on your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad, and requires iOS 6 or higher; it works by creating a virtual "vault" in which you can save many different kinds of sensitive information--passwords, of course, but also credit card and bank account numbers, passport data, software keys, and so forth.