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Are Free Password Managers Safe?

Lisa Belluck  — February 4, 2019

There are a vast number of password managers on the market currently. This can make finding the best password manager tricky. Each individual case is unique, and each password manager has its own pros and cons. Additionally, distinguishing between paid and free password managers can be hard because it is often unclear if paid password managers are worth it.

Generally speaking, password managers are necessary for most users. There are too many accounts that we need to actively maintain, and we constantly need to balance our safety against convenience.

The vast majority of free and paid password managers will be able to provide you a reasonable amount of protection, but paid password managers tend to include certain functionality that goes the extra mile to keep your data hidden. Here are a few factors that might help you choose between a free password manager and a paid one.

Password Data Storage

The method that your password manager uses to handle password data makes a big impact on its overall usefulness. Paid password managers are more likely to offer highly secure cloud storage for your password data, which makes it extremely easy to manage your passwords across multiple devices.

Cloud storage allows you to easily access your online accounts on all devices that your manager is installed on. If a password management application does not use cloud storage, then you will need to manually enter all your passwords for each device that you use.

This is usually inconvenient, and it can ultimately prove to be a security hazard. Non-paid passwords managers, though usually secure in their own right, will be less likely to offer this sort of amenity. This is one of the reasons why paid password managers tend to outperform free ones.

Secure Authentication Methods

Biometrics and other secondary authentication methods also play a role in the quality of your password manager. Free password managers are much less likely to offer biometric authentication as well. Biometric authentication is one of the leading methods for protecting your passwords, and it provides an extra barrier to protect you against malicious individuals.

Two-factor authentication comes in quite a few different flavors, and biometrics don’t cover all of them. Many password managers will also have the option to enable phone authentication by sending you a security code when you try to add, change, or use a password.

While it isn’t foolproof, two-factor authentication is an excellent supplemental line of defense against hackers. Unless you frequently lose your phone, having two-factor authentication enabled on your password manager is highly recommended.

The Bottom Line

While it is tempting to use a free password manager, paid password managers will provide you with more robust data protection and security. Typically, most high-quality password managers will offer a free version and a paid version and allow you to try their product before you make a final decision.

It’s important to know whether the password manager that you choose can sync your data between devices and applications. Password management tools that don’t offer this feature are inconvenient to use, and you’re more likely to have all the functionality that you need to keep you safe with a paid manager.