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NordPass review 2020

Aimee O'Driscoll VPN AND CYBERSECURITY EXPERT

NordPassNord Pass logo is a password manager offered by the creators of NordVPN. Given that this is one of our top-rated VPN providers, we had high hopes for this password manager performing well. That said, with a fairly crowded password manager market to compete in, this tool has a lot to live up to.
NordVPN is known for its excellent security features, and as expected, NordPass follows this trend. But does it perform well in other areas that are important in the realm of password managers, such as ease of use, features, and value for money? In this NordPass review, we’ll delve into all of these areas and more.

Free or paid account? NordPass has a robust free option, but paying $3 per month for a year of the Premium version lets you use it on multiple devices (and includes additional features).

If you’re wondering if NordPass is right for you, we’ve got all the details you need to make the right decision.

The NordPass homepage.

NordPass review summary

NordPass comes with plenty of standard features to satisfy most users, plus it’s backed by strong encryption. There are some logistical issues that will be a turnoff for some, but at $3 per month, we’d be willing to recommend this password manager as a solid alternative to major rivals.

NordPass overview and features

NordPass’s free version is very functional, but the paid version is well-priced at $36 for a year. The latter can be used on six devices at once, so it’s definitely worth the fee. Secure sharing is an additional paid-only feature that may be attractive to some users.

NordPass homepage.

You can access your dashboard via the desktop or mobile apps. Browser extensions allow for easy saving and auto filling of credentials. Note that when using browser extensions, you may want to disable your browser’s built-in password manager to use NordPass, to save confusion and dealing with multiple password-related requests.

Here are the main features you’ll find in the NordPass app:

  • Master password to access password vault
  • Store passwords in folders in the cloud
  • Access passwords on desktop or mobile apps
  • Generate random passwords (adjustable according to account requirements)
  • Autosave passwords when you log in to a new account
  • Autofill passwords when you revisit websites
  • Easy import for existing passwords
  • Password strength checker
  • Regular automatic backups to the cloud and syncing across devices
  • Share passwords with trusted contacts safely (avoid man-in-the-middle attacks)
  • Add encrypted notes to store other password-related information
  • Store credit card details for easy access
  • XChaCha20 encryption to secure your data
  • Zero-knowledge architecture so no one has access to your information
  • Two-factor authentication and biometric authentication
  • OCR scanning for inputting card details and other information
  • Offline mode
  • Straightforward export options

NordPass pricing

The NordPass free tier enables you to save unlimited passwords, keep notes and credit card numbers, and sync across devices. However, you can only use it on one device at a time. This is pretty normal, although there are free options out there that work on multiple devices, for example, LastPass.

When you opt for the premium tier, you’ll be able to log in on multiple devices and enjoy automatic cloud backups and syncing across devices. Additional features in the premium version include the ability to add trusted contacts and securely share login information with them.

The paid NordPass plan has several price tiers depending on the term length you go for. A month-to-month plan costs $4.99 per month, but you can get a large discount for paying for a longer period in advance. The one-year plan is $2.99 per month and the two-year option is $2.49 per month.

The price of the annual term is comparable to top competitor LastPass (also around $3 per month) and cheaper than another top rival Dashlane (around $5 per month).

Pricing table.

The premium plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Payment options include major credit cards, AmazonPay, Sofort, iDeal, Alipay, and several cryptocurrencies.

Nord offers three services: the NordPass password manager, NordVPN, and a file encryption tool called NordLocker. These are all billed separately and there is no bundle deal. This is a positive in the sense that you only pay for the services you’re using, but some loyal Nord users may miss not being rewarded.

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NordPass security

When you’re signing up for a password manager, one of the most important questions is whether or not you can trust this provider. Nord has been around for a long time and has a solid track record when it comes to security. For example, NordVPN scored very highly when we compared the security standards of multiple VPNs side-by-side. The VPN logging policy has twice been audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2018 and 2020.

There was a 2019 report of a data breach involving NordVPN passwords. However, it should be noted that this was due to users using the same passwords across accounts (making them discoverable via credential stuffing attacks) and did not involve a breach of NordVPN’s security systems.

With NordPass, you never have to be concerned that someone will get their hands on your password. Your data is secured by XChaCha20 encryption, which is used by the likes of Google and Cloudflare. The service is built on zero-knowledge architecture, which means that no one at NordPass can view your passwords (including your master password), credit card details, or encrypted notes. Even if there was a breach of the company’s systems, your information would be safe.

Illustration of zero-knowledge architecture.

Bear in mind this does mean that you need to remember your master password. NordPass will provide you with a recovery key, but if both of these are lost, you will lose access to your vault.

Accounts come with the option of two-factor authentication and biometric authentication (on mobile). There’s also an Autolock feature which lets you control how long you stay signed into the app. This is handy, for example, if you’re using NordPass on a shared device.

How to use NordPass

Many password managers provide access to password vaults via a web browser and mobile apps. NordPass works a bit differently: while it does offer mobile apps (for iOS and Android), it doesn’t allow users to access their vaults via a web browser. There is a “dashboard” available via the web, but this just lets you manage your Nord account subscriptions (for NordVPN, NordPass, and NordLocker).

Instead, desktop users must download a client (available for Windows, MacOS, and Linux) from which to manage their passwords. This may be a drawback for some users as it means you can’t simply log in on any device to look up your passwords.

Setting up NordPass desktop apps

Already have a NordVPN or NordLocker account? If so, you can use the same login for NordPass (although you’ll still need to create a master password).

If not, to sign up, you can go to My Account > Create a Nord Account on the website or click Create Nord Account when you launch the desktop client or mobile app.

Nord Account login.

The desktop downloads can be located in the Apps tab on the NordPass website.

App selection.

In the Nord Account signup page, you’ll be prompted to enter your email address.

The Nord Account signup page.

You’ll then be prompted to check your email inbox and activate your account.

An account activation email.

Next, you can create your password for your account. Things get a little confusing as you’ll still need to create a master password for your NordPass account a bit later. This first password will be your password for your Nord Account which will give you access to the browser-based dashboard showing all three Nord products (although you’ll only be able to use those for which you have subscriptions).

Nord Account dashboard.

Again, you don’t actually manage your passwords from within this dashboard. You’ll need to install the NordPass app to view your passwords. When you first launch an app, you’ll be asked to log into your Nord Account.

Nord Account login.

Then you’ll be prompted to create your master password. Bear in mind this will be your master password for all of the passwords NordPass is going to store for you. This means it needs to be very strong (comprise more than eight characters and include symbols and upper and lower case letters) and you need to remember it.

Master Password creation screen.

Next, you’ll be provided with a recovery key. This is provided in case you ever lose or forget your master password. If you lose your master password and your recovery key, you will not be able to access NordPass.

The Recovery Code screen.

Adding NordPass browser extensions

NordPass provides plugins for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, and Opera. Adding browser extensions makes it easy to save and autofill passwords.

Once you’ve saved your recovery code in the step above, you’ll be prompted to install browser extensions. Select an extension and you’ll be directed to the relevant store to complete the installation.

NordPass browser extensions.

You can add browser extensions at any time by searching for NordPass in the relevant extension store or going to Settings > Browser Extensions within the app.

Installing NordPass mobile apps

To set up a NordPass mobile app, download, install, and log in to the relevant NordPass app for your device. To log in to the mobile app, you’ll need to use an email activation code each time.

The NordPass mobile app.

There is no way to disable this requirement, but you can adjust the Autolock setting so that you stay logged in. However, if you’re on the free plan, you can only stay logged in to one device at a time.

Now you’re ready to start using NordPass’s features, which we’ll describe below.

NordPass features review

NordPass has plenty of features on offer, most of which will be attractive to the everyday user. There is some room for improvement, but overall this is an intuitive and practical tool that will no doubt make your life easier. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main features.

Add passwords

Once you’re signed in to your NordPass account, the first thing you’ll likely want to do is add passwords. You can add them one at a time or in bulk. There are a couple of ways to add a password.

  1. Manually: If you just want to add a set of credentials without logging into the account, you can go to the NordPass vault and add it manually. Log in to the desktop app and go to All Items > Add Item. In the mobile app, click + and select Login.
  2. Web browser: Within a web browser, make sure you have the appropriate NordPass extension installed and you’re logged in. Then, navigate to the login page for the account you want to add. Log into that account as normal. The NordPass extension will initiate a popup that asks if you want to add these credentials to your vault. Fill in any additional information required and hit Save.

Adding a password in a web browser.

Import and export passwords

Want to add passwords in bulk from another password manager? You can do this fairly easily with NordPass’s import option from desktop or Android.

In your desktop app, go to Settings > Import/Export and you’ll see a selection of password managers to choose from. You’ll see browser options there too, so if you’ve been using your browser’s built-in password manager, you can import from that.

Importing passwords.

Note you will need to download a CSV file from your other password manager to import your passwords. If you need help with this step, simply click Learn how to export CSV file for instructions that are tailored to the password manager you’ve selected.

Exporting a CSV file.

Android users have the option to import passwords from a browser using their mobile device. In the Android NordPass app, go to Settings. In the Import section, select Import Logins. Now select the browser you’d like to import login information from and follow the directions provided.

Generate passwords

Coming up with a new strong password for every account can be tough. Thankfully, similar to most other password managers, NordPass will generate random passwords for you. When generating passwords, you can adjust settings such as length and character types, so that you get the password strength you desire and adhere to any password rules put in place by the platform you’re using.

To generate a new password, make sure you’re logged in to your NordPass browser extension or app. Log in to the account for which you want to change the password. Navigate to the section where you change your password — depending on the platform, this may be in the main account section or in a separate password or security tab.

You should see a NordPass symbol in the New Password field. Click this and a new password will automatically generate. If you’re happy with it, select Use Password. If you want to adjust password settings, for example the length, click More options to see a selection of criteria.

Generating a password.

When you’re setting up a brand new account with a platform, you’ll have the option to generate a password from the signup page.

Autofill passwords

Now that you’ve added passwords to your vault, this is where the real magic kicks in. Each time you visit the login page for a site for which you’ve stored credentials in your vault, NordPass will offer to fill in those credentials for you.

On the login page, in the username and password fields, you’ll see the NordPass symbol. Click on one of these and you should see one or more options for sets of credentials.

Logging into Twitter with NordPass.

Click the one that corresponds to this account and NordPass will automatically fill the credentials for you. Now you can complete the login process (complete the reCAPTCHA if necessary and hit the login button) and you should be logged in successfully.

Another way to access an account is to go directly from the NordPass app or browser extension and launch the login page from there. When you added passwords earlier, NordPass remembered the URL for the platform login page. So when you click the Launch button next to an account, you’ll be taken straight there.

The Launch button next to accounts.

Note that on the mobile app, you have to enable autofill by going to Settings > Passwords and Accounts > Autofill Passwords and selecting NordPass.

One issue here was that we found the NordPass app worked with some mobile apps, but not all. For example, it worked with the Twitter app but not the Netflix app. That said, we are able to use it for Netflix within a mobile web browser.

Password strength checker

Wondering if an existing password is strong enough? NordPass has a built-in password strength checker that will let you know if your password measures up. For existing passwords, view your login details within the app and the password strength will be indicated by a colored bar beneath the password. Red is weak, orange is okay, and green is strong.

An example of the password strength checker.

The strength of new passwords will be automatically indicated when you generate them.

A new password with the strength indicated.

If you want more information about your password strength, you can use NordPass’s online password strength checker tool. This will tell you the strength of your password, an estimated time for how long it will take to crack, and how many times it’s been exposed in a data breach. You can also use Comparitech’s own password strength test.

The NordPass online strength checker tool.

Setting up 2FA

Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) can add an extra layer of security to your account by requiring that you perform an additional step each time you log in. To enable 2FA on the desktop apps, you’ll need a third-party mobile app such as Authy or Google Authenticator.

In the desktop app, go to Settings, scroll down to Two-Factor Authentication, and click Enable. You’ll be prompted to enter your master password and then hit Continue.

Two-factor authentication setup.

Now you’ll be issued a QR code and secret key. You can scan the code using your mobile authenticator app or manually enter the key into your app.

The QR code and key.

Then click Continue. You’ll be promoted to enter the six-digit time-sensitive code produced by your authenticator app.

If you’re enabling 2FA in the mobile app, instead of being issued a QR code, you’ll just be prompted to select Open Authenticator App. Then an Add token popup will appear. Select Yes.

Then you’re all done. Each time you log into a NordPass app, you’ll need to enter a code from your mobile authenticator app.

Note that if you enable this feature on desktop, it will also be enabled on mobile. This might seem like overkill though as the mobile app already has an additional step (the email verification code) by default. So now you have three steps to complete (an email code, an authenticator app code, and the master password) to log into your mobile app.

Setting up biometric authentication

To use biometric authentication on the mobile app, you need to have already set up fingerprint or other biometric recognition within your device settings. To enable biometric authentication, go to Settings and toggle Unlock with Biometrics to the on (green) position. You’ll be prompted to enter your master password.

The NordPass mobile app settings.

Now you’ll be able to use a biometric method of authentication instead of entering your master password.

Other features: Encrypted notes, credit cards, and more

NordPass comes with several other features to help you secure your accounts. Here’s a little more explanation about the ones you’re most likely to benefit from:

  • Secure notes: This feature allows you to store information in an encrypted format. Its main purpose is to jot down related information that doesn’t fall into the realm of straightforward credentials for autofilling. For example, you could use it to store wifi passwords, security question answers or prompts, or alarm codes.
  • Credit cards: Find it a pain to enter your credit card information for every purchase? You can store your card details so that they’re auto-filled on sites where you need to enter payment information. It sounds unsafe, but browsers already offer this service, and so do many websites. A breach of any one of these could expose your data. Storing your details in a password manager is probably far safer than in a whole bunch of sites with questionable security measures.
  • Shared items: This is a premium feature that allows you to securely share logins, secure notes, or credit card details with another user. You can share information with anyone in your “Trusted Contacts” list. To add a new trusted contact, go to Settings > Advanced.
  • OCR scanning: This is a neat tool in the mobile apps that enables you to scan text, for example, bank card details or a wifi password, without having to enter anything. This is particularly handy if you don’t want to store your credit card details within the vault or have to deal with entering them each time you want to make an online purchase.
  • Offline access: Another perk of the mobile app is that NordPass will work even when you don’t have internet access.

Should you use NordPass?

NordPass is a secure password manager that will certainly make your life easier. It comes with all the basic necessities including strong security features and the ability to generate, save, and autofill passwords on desktop and mobile. It also packs some handy add-ons such as secure notes, credit card detail storage, and secure sharing.

The NordPass free tier is very functional, the major downside being that you can only use it on one device at a time. That said, the premium plan is very reasonably priced and is recommended if you tend to switch between devices frequently.

This password manager does have a few downsides, but the importance of these will depend on the individual user. The mobile app is a little cumbersome to use as it forces an email verification step that can’t be disabled. To make things more complex, if you want to use 2FA on desktop, you’ll have to deal with a three-step verification process on mobile. While this is good for security, it’s a negative in terms of usability.

One more issue with the mobile app is that it doesn’t always work with other apps. While it does seem to work reliably within browsers, this could be frustrating for some users who use apps that require frequent logins, such as banking apps and cryptocurrency wallets.

Another logistical aspect that may be a problem for some users is the lack of browser access to the password vault. Passwords can only be accessed on a device on which a native NordPass app is installed. This doesn’t work in some instances, for example, when borrowing a device from a friend or using a school computer.

Verdict

NordPass has the potential to be a great product but it could use some fine-tuning. If you’re mainly looking for a password manager to use on your phone or tablet, some of the nuances in the mobile apps could be a turnoff. However, if you’re primarily a desktop user, NordPass is far more palatable and will serve you well as a practical and secure password manager.

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