One of the most convenient parts about being on your home computer is that your internet browser saves all your passwords and automatically inputs them into the sites you like to visit. Most people have their browsers – and smartphones – set up like this and never think twice about it.
Unfortunately, few people realize how easy it is to steal someone’s password once it’s saved into a browser. Don’t believe me? Open this page in your browser if you’re using Chrome:
On that page, you may find dozens of saved passwords and user accounts. But it’s okay, right? All the passwords are blocked out and you can only see the usernames. However, if you hover over an individual password, you’ll see a ‘Show’ button pop up. Just click that and you’ll instantly see the password underneath.
You can find a similar page in Firefox by going to Options > Security > Saved Passwords > Show Passwords
If you’re using a browser at your friend’s house, it’s easy to pop that link into the address bar and spy on their Twitter or Facebook passwords. Does that bother you? It should – especially if your computer is in a public part of the house or if friends regularly use your PC.
Internet Explorer, despite all its other faults, does not allow users to view saved passwords directly from the main menu. However, it does allow you to install a simple free tool called IE PassView to reveal all passwords on your PC.
So in other words, all three major browsers have a security feature that has been seriously compromised. Fortunately, there are a number of different ways to fix this problem and make sure your passwords never get out:
Option 1) Use a dedicated password manager
There are hundreds of password management solutions out there, but only a few big ones are worth your time. The two most popular password managers are KeePass and LastPass, both of which replace the default password manager on your browser. These services lock all your valuable passwords away and force you to enter a master password in order to access the list. You can also use a screen keyboard to type in your password, which prevents keyloggers from stealing your info.
Option 2) For Firefox, enable the master password feature
Up above, we told you how to easily view your list of saved passwords in Firefox. Fortunately, Firefox does let users lock that section away by creating a master password. To enable that master password, go to Options > Security and look under Passwords to check the Use a master password option. Set that password and make sure you remember it.
Option 3) Set a strong Windows password
Chrome and Internet Explorer have a unique feature that protects unauthorized Windows users from accessing your passwords. Specifically, Chrome and IE both check to make sure your Windows account is logged in before they display your master list of passwords. So if you lock your workstation every time you get up, and then have to type a password to get back in, then your passwords are secure. Just make sure you have a strong Windows password and you’ll be fine.
It’s virtually impossible to make sure a password is 100% secure. However, with the help of the above tips, you’ll be able to put an extra layer of security between thieves and your passwords.