The beginning of the school year is just around the corner, and as the parent of a soon-to-be third grader I’ve been barraged by a slew of online and accounts I’ll need to access on a regular basis. These accounts connect me with online retailers for back-to-school clothes and gear, sites and portals related to after-school activities, online testing, parent/teacher communications, blended learning, and more.
Being naturally interested in password security I thought I’d Google what advice is being shared with parents like myself to keep everything straight. There were well-written pieces of advice around cyberbullying and mobile device security, and something called shoulder surfing which pretty much equates to copying someone’s homework without permission.
What I found for password security tips became a lot less sound. Most articles recommended strong passwords that use a combination of upper case and lower case letters, numbers and characters; this advice was pretty consistent and fair enough. Nothing that can be guessed, and never the same password for more than one account. Got it.
But what caught my eye, and this where I felt the advice kind of fell apart, was guidance on the ideal length of a password. Allow me to quote some of these particular nuggets of wisdom:
- “The guideline for a strong password is one that is 20 characters long.”
- “Create long, strong and unique passwords for each email account, school login, and social media site.”
- “Make sure you use a complex and unique password for each account/system that are at least 10 characters long.”
Let me do the math based on this collective advice.
There are approximately a dozen accounts I need to manage that relate in some way to activities surrounding the school year. This doesn’t count all the personal online accounts and websites that I maintain, mind you. Each account should have a unique password. And each of those unique passwords should be between 10-20 unique characters long. To make it even more complicated, many of these accounts will need me to change login credentials at least once during the school year, if not much more often.
Oh, I forgot the best part: don’t write them down.
I’m not sure what the exact calculation would be in this case, but suffice to say that it’s a bit too unrealistic for anyone, busy parent or otherwise.
There Shouldn’t Be Even a Fine Line Between Secure and Convenient
The line between security and convenience is not a very fine one. In fact, there’s just too much space between the two. Moms and Dads everywhere are likely less worried about security and more worried about being able to download their child’s homework assignment before it’s due.
Parents I have discussed this with have two consistent needs:
- A single place to manage all the passwords they need to maintain
- Keep details safe and secure
Fortunately, the two can meet in the middle in the form of a password manager.
A Password Manager The Whole Family Can Enjoy
Using a password manager was one bit of advice that I found in about one out of every five articles during my Google search. I’ll quote one of my favorite instances of this, from an article in PC Magazine article written by Neil Rubenking four years ago*:
“Passwords protect more than email accounts. You probably have dozens of password-protected websites, school-related and otherwise. One easy way to handle this plethora of passwords is to just use the same password everywhere, maybe something clever like “password” or “monkey.” OK, that’s dumb, but without the help of a password manager you’ll be hard-pressed to remember unique, strong passwords for every site.”
A password manager like LastPass makes it very easy to create long, complex passwords using any required combination of characters, for every online account. No matter how frequently passwords need to be changed, and without the trouble of having to remember a single one of them. Instead, the only thing I need to remember is a single passphrase that’s easy for me to remember and extremely difficult for anyone to guess.
And considering it’s back to school season, even better is our new where you can store your entire family’s passwords, bank accounts, credit card data and more. It’s easy to organize and share as the “family manager” can add or remove members of the family or even designate another manager.
For example, I share certain credentials with my nanny so she can access sites related to my daughter’s school and healthcare. My father shares access so I can access bank account and healthcare information in case of emergency.
Who in your life would you share access with? Perhaps you have a child attending college and want to give them access to Netflix or Hulu. (And, should you feel the need, you could even revoke access the week before exams.) Or maybe you’d like to share access to your Amazon Prime account with your sister so she can take advantage of free shipping.
In more detail, LastPass Families includes these neat features:
- A family backup plan
Combine all valuable information, from online bank accounts to Social Security cards to healthcare details, in one place and give emergency access to a family member so you’re never locked out in unexpected situations.
- Simple setup & management
With a LastPass account for up to 6 family members, LastPass Families allows everyone to easily store and access all their passwords and information, no matter what device they’re using. The lead family manager purchases the subscription and is able to designate additional managers, as well as add and remove family members.
- Unlimited sharing with your family
Organize items into as many folders as you need, so you can share login credentials to household bills with your significant other, while sharing entertainment sites with the whole family – all while keeping personal sites separate in your private vault.
At the end of the day I don’t want there to be even a fine line between security and convenience. I don’t even want there to be a line at all.
Considering I use LastPass to keep track of all of my passwords, securely, my only real back-to-school dread is learning what color my daughter will want to dye her hair upon her arrival home that first day back at school.
*For full disclosure I should note that Neil from PC Magazine went on to recommend his team’s password manager of choice, LastPass.