Can you trust your browser with your passwords?

Most current Web browsers include some kind of password management. But can you trust your browser? We take a look.

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Firefox 14

Firefox offers advanced password-saving features that are even better than Chrome's. But while Firefox doesnt natively support saving credit card details, at least that's one less security issue you need to worry about. As with Chrome, you can browse, search, and remove saved passwords via the Firefox settings.

Though you cant change the passwords in the settings, Firefox automatically senses password changes you've made elsewhere and asks if you want to update your password when you log on to a site with a password thats different than whats saved on your PC.

Unlike Chrome, Firefox lets you set a master password to encrypt and password-protect the saved password list.

You must enter the master password the first time you use a saved password, once per browser session. Additionally, even though you enter the master password the first time, you must always enter it before you can view saved passwords via the list in the Firefox settings. This is a great feature to help prevent casual snooping of your passwords, and it even prevents most third-party utilities from recovering them.

Firefox can also sync your passwords, settings, and other saved data among multiple computers and devices.

This is similar to what Chrome provides, but by default Firefox encrypts all synced data instead of just your saved passwords. Additionally, theres more security when you add a new computer or device to your Firefox Sync account. You can either enter a passcode from the new device into one that you've already set up, or take the recovery key from a device you've already set up and input it into the new device after logging in to your Firefox Sync account.


Internet Explorer 9 helps prevent casual snoopingtheres no list of saved passwords in the settingsbut it doesnt provide any advanced security features to prevent someone on your Windows account from using third-party utilities to recover your passwords.

Google Chrome 21 allows anyone on your Windows account to view your list of saved passwords and credit card details, so be careful who you let on. And if you sync your browsing data across multiple computers and devices, consider turning on encryption of all data and setting a custom passphrase for double-protection.

Firefox 14 also by default allows anyone on your Windows account to view your list of saved passwords, but you can create a master password to encrypt and protect them. And if you use the browser syncing feature, Firefox offers great security.

Of the three browsers we reviewed, Id choose Firefox for the best password security thanks to its master-password feature, but Im also eager to see the final version of Internet Explorer 10 for both Windows 7 and 8.

Ill leave you with some additional tips to help you boost the security of your passwords:

  • Never save passwords or sync browser data on other peoples computers.
  • Try to use different passwords for each siteat least for banking and other sensitive accounts.
  • Password-protect your Windows account.
  • Create separate Windows accounts for each user, or at least for those you dont fully trust.
  • For extended family or friends, utilize the Guest Windows account.
  • Use a good antivirus program and keep it updated.
  • Think about fully encrypting laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices.
  • Look into third-party password-management services like LastPass or KeePass.

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer. Hes also the founder of NoWiresSecurity, which provides a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service for businesses, and On Spot Techs, which provides on-site computer services.

This story, "Can you trust your browser with your passwords?" was originally published by PCWorld.

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