4 password managers offer security anytime, anywhere

Find your passwords and other data on any device.

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Bottom line

1Password is a great solution for Macs -- the browser toolbar makes password entry a two-click affair, and the Mac application itself makes it easy to create and maintain passwords, identities, secure notes and other data.

However, the browser pop-up in the Windows version, which is still in beta, isn't quite as easy to use as the toolbar in the Mac version, and the 1Password application for Windows didn't let me automatically log into Web sites by double-clicking on a site, as I could with the Mac version. 1Password lacks key features for anytime, anywhere access. It's not compatible with the BlackBerry; accessing your data on the Dropbox Web site is a clunky, multistep affair; it does not offer the ability to run from a USB key; and you can't create one-time use passwords for logging into your password database.

RoboForm is a solid product for Windows, and although there's no native application for Linux or Mac OS X and no ability to store and synchronize a local copy of your password data on those systems, the browser toolbar add-in for the Mac is quick and easy to use. As with 1Password, you pay a license fee per Windows PC or USB device, which can add up if you want to use the product on several different platforms.

Clipperz is a free, but much more limited, password manager. It's Web-based, so you can access it from anywhere, so long as you're online. It allows you to store a local backup copy of your data, and it can run from a USB key.

However, the local copy doesn't automatically keep in sync, and the process of using bookmarklets to create direct log-ins for Web sites by copying and pasting HTML code between the Web site and the Clipperz Web site is a less-than-polished approach that should be automated. Clipperz does the job, but when compared to other products in this category it looks unfinished.

I consider LastPass to be the overall winner. Security products should be easy to set up and use, and as unobtrusive as possible, or people just won't use them. LastPass does well on all counts while working on Windows, Mac, Linux and most smartphone platforms.

It was the only product to automatically populate and submit my credentials to a Web site as soon as I surfed to a Web site -- no button-clicking required. It has a few nice features, such as an analysis of your existing passwords for weaknesses and an option to automatically delete passwords stored insecurely by your browsers. It can store a local copy of your data on all mobile and personal computing platforms, and it offers the added protection of two-factor authentication.

I didn't like the fact that LastPass requires your user account ID to be your e-mail address -- something that's easily guessed. Because of that, a strong master password is a must. But the price, free or $12 per year for the LastPass Premium subscription, is very reasonable.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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