Usernames and passwords. Ugh. We all have tons of them, and I suspect that we all struggle with ways to remember them. I've used lots of different systems over the years, ranging from a password-protected file on my iPhone to (I'm embarrassed to admit) a Post-it note stuck on my computer monitor. The struggle is to find the right balance between protection and ease of use. I've been aware of 1Password for years, first as a way to store and create passwords using a computer and then more recently as an app for the iPhone and iPad, but I never got around to trying it until December of 2012 when version 4.0 of the app came out, a completely new version of the app with many new and different features. I purchased the app and have been using it for about a month now. I'm still only using a fraction of what this app can do, but I suspect that I'm using the fraction that most of you would want to use, and I've been very happy with the app. It has earned a spot on the first page of my iPhone and iPad, valuable real estate and about the highest praise that I can give to an app.
Part of my reluctance in trying 1Password was the knowledge that I would need to spend lots of time putting all of my existing usernames and passwords into the app. I finally took one long night while I was at my in-law's house over Christmas vacation when the rest of the family was sleeping to make the move. While doing so, I even took the time to change some of my passwords that should have been more complex or which had been identical to passwords I used elsewhere. This process wasn't exactly fun, but in retrospect it wasn't that hard to do, and I feel much better having done it. Don't let the process scare you off.
The app's name comes from the idea that you only have to remember one password — the master password that you use every time that you start the app. If you want to sacrifice some security for ease of use, you can tell the app to only request the master password if you haven't used the app in the last x minutes (where "x" can range from 1 minute to 30 minutes). Choose a good master password that you can remember and is secure (and please, please, please do not make your password something like "password" or "123"). Also, make sure that your 1Password master password is not a password that you have ever used anywhere else.
Once you are in the app, you can see a list of your logins and passwords. You can either view the entire list and scroll to find a password, or you can search. You can also assign logins to folders so that you can easily see, for example, all of your law-related passwords or all of your shopping passwords in one spot, which often makes it easier to find something. You can also assign some of your Logins to a Favorites list.
You can keep all sorts of information with a Login. Of course you can store username and password. You can also store a website address (more on that in a moment), a note, or virtually any other information that you want to associate with a login. If you have a number in your password, the app displays the number in blue so that it is easier to see. Special characters like a semi-colon are displayed in red. By default the app doesn't even display the password and instead displays a number of dots (protection if someone is looking over your shoulder) and you need to tap the dots to display the password. I never look up passwords when someone is next to me, so I changed the setting to always display the password when I tap on a login to make the app faster to use.
If you have multiple iOS devices, 1Password can use iCloud or Dropbox to securely sync your information to other devices. Data is stored on iCloud or Dropbox is encrypted for security. I have been using the Dropbox syncing method and it has worked great. I used an iPad with an external Bluetooth keyboard to type in most of my information, and then moments later everything was synced across to my iPad mini and my iPhone.
Because so many passwords are currently associated with a website, I love the ability to designate a website address in a 1Password Login entry because 1Password includes a built-in web browser that has access to all of your 1Password data. For example, if you want to connect to your bank, you can simply tap the website address on your Login and you will see your bank website. For many websites, 1Password will automatically find the username and password fields and log you in. Otherwise, you can tap the login button at the top of the 1Password browser to select the appropriate login information.
Here's a tip that you might not know about even if you already use 1Password. If you are viewing a website in Safari on your iPhone or iPad and you need to login, go to the address bar and type "op" just before the http part. So for example, if your browser is on http://www.mybank.com, tap the address bar and add "op" to the beginning so that it reads ophttp://www.mybank.com. Then tap return and the 1Password app will open. Enter your master password, and then the exact same page will open in the 1Password browser, where your username and password will in most cases be entered automatically. This is an easy way to login to a website when you are using Safari without having to even take the time to look up your password.
1Password can store more than just your logins and passwords — the app can also store virtually any other private information. For example, you can store your credit card information in 1Password, and that way if your credit card is ever stolen, you have a place to go to get your account information for when you need to call the credit card company. Additionally, when you are using the 1Password browser, if you go to a site that requests your credit card, you can tap the credit card button at the top of the browser to select one of your cards and automatically enter your information (number, expiration date, etc.). 1Password can also store driver license info, passport info, social security numbers, software licenses, reward programs, and many other types of information.
I especially like that 1Password can store Secure Notes. You can type just about anything in there, so it is just like the built-in Notes app on the iPhone except that the information is private and could not be accessed by someone else using your iPhone. I am constantly thinking of information that I would like to store someplace secure on my iPhone and iPad and I am using the Secure Notes feature almost as much as the Login feature.
Although this is everything that I am doing with 1Password, the app is far more powerful. You can also purchase 1Password for your Mac and/or PC and keep the data in sync. (There are different prices for different packages, but the basic software costs $50 for Mac or PC, or for $70 you can buy it for both.) I haven't tried the computer software yet. For now, if I am using my computer and I need a password, I just open the app on my iPhone or iPad and look up the password and then type it in on the computer. Note that if you buy the current version of 1Password on the Mac App Store, you will get a free upgrade to 1Password 4 for Mac whenever it is released. Click here for the Mac version ($49.99):
You can also have 1Password automatically generate long, secure passwords for websites. Take a look at the above screenshots for Amazon and Facebook logins to see examples. The idea is that if you are using the 1Password software to automatically enter your password, it doesn't inconvenience you at all to have a long and complicated password but of course it adds incredible security. I haven't tried this feature yet, in part because I don't yet use 1Password on Mac/PC, and in part because I haven't had to generate many new passwords over the last month. But I'm glad to see this feature there and I'm sure I'll use it in the future.
In my mind, the key for security is balance: protection versus ease of use. Having a different, complex password for every website gives you fabulous protection, but lots of people don't do that because it is just too hard to keep track of lots of different passwords. On the other extreme, using the same password everywhere keeps things simple, but is a security nightmare. (I won't name names, but I know quite a few non-lawyers who do this, and I fear that some lawyers do as well.) 1Password is the perfect balance. I can use different and robust passwords for each of my logins, but I only need to worry about remembering my 1Password master password because my iPhone or iPad is always with me whenever I need to access a password. I am not surprised to see that this app has received — as far as I can tell — universal favorable press. For example, iMore recently named it the iPad utility of the year. Marco Tabini of Macworld called the app "practically flawless."
I give 1Password my highest recommendation for iPhone J.D. readers. It solves an important problem (password security) that we all have, it is super easy to use, and it is a well-designed app that looks and works great. This is a universal app, so you can buy it once and use it on your iPhone and iPad.
Click here for 1Password ($17.99):