Personal Password Management

Question: If someone were to obtain your credentials for a “non-critical” web site, could they be used to gain access to accounts on critical sites such as email, online banking, etc? Many people would likely have to answer yes to that question, even security minded IT professionals.

Identity management can easily be a complicated subject. The average Internet user maintains dozens of accounts across an array of sites with varying levels of importance and security. Credentials for those accounts can be obtained a number of ways. Many sites still don’t use SSL login encryption, leaving passwords vulnerable to sniffing. Others store passwords in the clear, leaving them vulnerable to breach (like the recent Monster.com one). The most secure solution might be to maintain a separate password for every site, but that isn’t very user freindly. Maintaining security has always been a trade-off between security and usability. Greater minds than mine are working on this problem, trying to come up with solutions like the OpenID initiative. Until a better solution is universally adopted, here I’m presenting the technique I use for personal password management.

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