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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Storing Passwords Securely

This is probably a problem that others have encountered, so I thought I'd address my solution here...

If you work on a lot of different websites, you tend to have a lot of username/password/etc info that you need to keep track of somehow. You can try to remember them all, or use the same info for each - the potential problems with these two approaches are obvious.

What is needed is some way to store this info securely and ideally across different computers, and with an eye towards keeping it backed up - obviously losing all the passwords to your clients' websites would not be a good thing! The only worse thing would be having that information fall into the wrong hands.

My current solution makes use of two free pieces of software. The first is Dropbox - a free cloud-based backup/sync program. Essentially, it sets up a folder on your computer, and anything in that folder is backed up to their server and sync'd with other machines with dropbox that are connected to your account. You can have up to 2 gigabytes for free.

The second piece of software is Password Safe, an open source program that lets you store passwords very securely. The program must be "unlocked" using a password, and the data is stored securely in a small encrypted file.

To make this work, just set up a password safe file for your info, and save it in your dropbox folder. Problem solved! It's automatically backed up and synced with your other machines. The only (very small) problem I've had is that dropbox can't back-up the password while it's in use by password safe - so be sure to shut the program down totally when after you've used it, and you're all set!

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