In our on-going series of reviews password managers, one big name remains.
So, without further ado, here is our take on one of the most well-known commercial products with which you can store your login credentials: 1Password.
As one of the biggest names in the password management business, 1Password is likely to attract many first-time buyers.
And therein lies one of the program’s biggest potential disadvantages – it isn’t free.
So, given the quality of some of the competition, and the fact that there are many other similar products that don’t cost a penny, how does it justify a purchase?
Well, the inclusion of some interesting features certainly help, as does the overall quality, look and feel of the product.
But is that enough to part you from your hard-earned cash?
I guess, as ever, the answer to that question comes from where you stand with technology in general, and password management software in particular.
The questions you have to ask yourself are: How do you feel about installing an open source equivalent, and what value do you place on convenience?
Actually, scrub that last question – the vast majority of the convenience afforded by buying a commercial product is undone in this instance as 1Password does not integrate itself between the desktop and mobile platforms nearly as well as some other password managers do.
So, with that in mind, what benefits does 1Password offer?
As already mentioned, 1Password comes with a heap of interesting features, including the following:
- It can automatically generate secure passwords
- Allows folder-style organisation of Vaults
- Watchtower, an auditing function that highlights both weak passwords and duplicated credentials
- Passwords are encrypted end-to-end
- Can automatically fill in forms with commonly entered information
- Secure Notes facility
- The ability to sync across other devices via the cloud, using Dropbox or iCloud
- Also allows local Wi-Fi syncing across devices
- Great interface
- Easy to use
- Good customer service
An impressive line-up, as I’m sure you’ll agree, but is that enough to justify what I think is a high asking price?
And, more importantly, is the base functionality of 1Password good enough to keep your login credentials secure?
Security and Privacy
As a commercial product, the source code of 1Password is generally not available for scrutiny though some elements, which have been ‘leaked’ do stand up to scrutiny and suggest the security measures in place are adequate or better.
The use of 256-bit AES encryption is a strong and secure option for this password manager.
As with all other programs of this type, the most important security aspect lies in the use of master password though.
When the program is first installed, you will be asked to enter this password – the only one you will need to remember – before you can proceed to use the product.
Assuming you have chosen a lengthy, complex and hard to guess master password, you should be well set, as it will be both hashed and salted by the software.
With end-to-end encryption in place, your chosen master password will be extremely secure but, of course, there will be no option for recovering a master password. In my opinion this is an essential feature of such software but it does make it all the more important that the master password you choose is as memorable as it is hard to crack.
The more paranoid out there will be pleased to know that the cloud syncing mentioned above is not enabled by default, but when it is required, it can be achieved via Wi-Fi, thus negating the need to send your passwords over the internet.
Such a connection can even be achieved without the need for a router as 1Password can create an ad hoc wireless network.
Furthermore, 1Password even offers advice on how to check network activity to ensure that no data is sent being to its developer, AgileBits.
1Password has a nice and reasonably intuitive interface that allows it to offer a wide range of features in a manner that will not confuse or confound the average user.
It’s not going to win any prizes for aesthetics but it is certainly a big step up from some of the alternative open source alternatives that seem to rate basic functionality over any kind of user experience.
Support for this password manager is excellent which is something that cannot be said for the vast majority of the competition so, if that’s of paramount importance to you, look no further.
AgileBits’ website, on the other hand, is a bit lacklustre at first look, though the determined will find and filter their way through the information overload to discover a wealth of information, guides and manuals that, collectively, will tell you everything you need to know about 1Password.
For those who need even more information or assistance, or who cannot find what they are looking for, the company also offers assistance through its support forum and a helpful Twitter account appears to be quite responsive.
So, overall, what did I make of 1Password?
Well, the first thing to spring to mind is the fact that this software has a definite market: those who want an easy to use and effective password manager that requires the minimal amount of effort to set up and maintain.
And for those people, it does just what it says on the tin, though it comes at a financial cost.
For more accomplished computer users there are many other choices that are either free or significantly cheaper.
So, depending on which camp you fall into, the pros and cons of 1Password are clear.