We live in an age when PC security it is one of the biggest concerns of users. With the amount of information leaks, data sale and compromised passwords, more and more users want to keep their data as secure as possible, and for this there are, in the PC ecosystem, two methods: use a password manager, or a hardware token (hardware security key). In this article we are going to tell you the pros and cons of each system, and of course we are going to assess which one is better to use.
Data privacy is always in question… how protected is your password when you register on any website? Good practice says that we should use a different password for each site we sign up to, so that if there is a security breach, only that service is compromised and not everything else. In practice this is almost impossible, since no one remembers 50 or more different passwords on a daily basis … and for this there are password managers and, of course, hardware security keys (also known as hardware token or hardware token).
Pros and cons of password managers
When you register on a website, such as an online store, you always have to enter an email address and a password, which you will have to memorize or write down somewhere. Most Internet browsers have an integrated password manager, such as Google Chrome, so that while you are using your Google account you can have your passwords remembered so that you do not have to enter them by hand. However, when we talk about software password managers, we have some other more powerful and complete options than what the browser offers us.
A password manager is nothing but a software which is responsible not only for storing safely, but also for generating passwords so that you never have to worry about remembering them (in fact, even you don’t have to know the passwords if you use this type of software). These are your main advantage:
- They store all your user accounts and passwords in one place, secured and encrypted to prevent, even if there are information leaks, they can access your data.
- They are available on all platforms, so that even if you use different PCs and / or smartphones, you always have your data at hand.
- The data is also in the cloud, so you will not have to have the program installed to access what you need.
- You will only have to remember a single password to access everything (this is known as Single Sign On, SSO).
- You will not have to think complicated passwords, the software will take care of generating random passwords.
Of course, a software password manager also has its disadvantages, such as the simple fact that you will be entrusting all your data under the protection of a single program (no matter how much everything is encrypted and secured, if this company has a data leak you will be in trouble). In the same way, these software password managers are usually paid monthly, so it is something that must also be taken into account.
And trust your passwords to hardware?
A hardware token works similar to that of a password manager, but obviously has its pros and cons compared to the other. We are talking of course about a physical device (instead of software), so let’s start by looking at its advantages:
- The data is neither in a software nor in the cloud, but on your device and nothing else.
- There is no way anyone can access your data without physical access to the device.
- Since most of them are USB, they will work on any computer that has a USB port.
However, it also has quite a few disadvantages:
- As a physical device, it can be broken, lost, or stolen, at which point you would lose everything if you don’t have a backup.
- Generally, the device itself is accompanied by a biometric system (fingerprint) and can fail.
- It requires an initial investment and, in some cases, an additional monthly usage fee.
- With some exceptions, it does not work on smartphones.
So which of the two options is better?
If we have to stick to which system is more secure, there is no doubt that a hardware password manager will give you the best security. However, for many users its disadvantages will outweigh those of using software, which is why they will opt for the latter option. And it is simply because of the fact that if your hardware token is lost or broken you will lose all the data, most users will choose not to complicate their lives with physical devices and opt for the software option.
In fact, it is actually the simplest and most versatile option for the user, so although the hardware option is more secure, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages and, really, it is more worth opting for a manager of passwords by software, since in fact it is also more complete.