Thursday, March 17, 2011

Password Managers

We all have a large number of passwords to look after- web sites, email accounts, user accounts. How to remember them? Password managers in web browsers help a lot, but they don't remember everything, and we still need to record email and user account passwords- either for other users we've set up or for ourselves on other computers. One option is to simply write them down- perfectly safe in a private place. I have a lot of usernames and passwords scribbled down in an old notebook. Trying to be more organised recently, I started typing them into a text file in my user directory. No bad people have access to my computer, so not really a problem. But just in case, I wondered whether I should encrypt the passwords file in some way. A recent thread on the Debian forum discussed password managers, so I thought I'd give some a try- all available in the Debian repositories.

The first I tried (it seems to be the most popular on the Debian forum thread) was KeePassX. It's a cross platform application and uses Qt4, and at first the GUI didn't fit into my desktop, but using qtconfig-qt4, I was able to get the GUI to use GTK+, like the rest of my desktop GUI's.
A useful feature is AutoType, which will automatically enter username and password details on web pages.

Then I tried Password Gorilla, another cross-platform application. This one required the installation of some cryptographic libraries as dependencies. (I haven't looked into the relative security of encryption methods or library used.) The GUI on this program is seriously old fashioned, and glitchy too- the right click menu disappears before you can select an action. The GUI also locked up for me a couple of times.

I also tried a couple of native Gnome applications. GPass is a simple password manager for Gnome.

Revelation is another.

Both are pretty basic (if competent) applications, although lacking the more advanced features of KeePassX like auto type.

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