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10 Free Ways to Track All Your Passwords

10 Free Ways to Track All Your Passwords

With the proliferation of web services — there’s a new one out each day, it seems — it feels like we’re always creating new accounts, each with a different username and password.

The easy options — using the same password each time or writing them down on paper or in a spreadsheet — aren’t exactly the most secure. In fact, security experts strongly warn against these options as they leave you vulnerable to online theft.

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So what’s a web surfer to do? If you’ve got more than a dozen services, you’re not going to remember all of them. It’s time to look into a password manager — and if you’re a cheapskate like me, you want a free one.

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Let’s agree, from here on in, to stop using our dog’s name and birth date for our single password. Here are 10 free options for doing that:

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  • Firefox or IE: Both popular browsers offer fairly secure ways of storing your username or passwords for different sites, once you enter them the first time. This is very handy, and can save a ton of time. Unfortunately, under certain conditions, the password could be lost, requiring you to enter the password again. And if you’ve been relying on the browser to remember the password, you’re out of luck. Also, this solution is only for online passwords, not for network or desktop passwords.
  • KeePass: One of the most popular password managers out there, KeePass is great because it’s open-source, free and cross-platform — available for Windows, Linux, OS X, and even mobile devices. It keeps all your passwords, online and off, in a secure database, so you only have to remember one master password. Be sure that master password is safe!
  • Clipperz: Unlike most password managers, this solution is online — so you can access it anywhere. And it stores more than passwords — credit card numbers, account numbers, anything really. Storing passwords and other confidential information online can make someplace nervous, but Clipperz uses an encryption method that means not even Clipperz knows what it’s storing. This is a good solution if you need access to your passwords from multiple computers, rather than just one or two.
  • OSX Keychain: If you use a Mac, you’re most likely familiar with Keychain, which comes with OSX. Basically, it’s a password manager that uses your OSX admin password as the master password.
  • KeyWallet: Windows only, this little utility sits in your system tray, and you just pull it up when you need to enter a password. As a utility, it is browswer-independent, which is ideal for some.
  • Password Manager Plus: The Billeo Free Password Manager Plus toolbar works with both Firefox and Internet Explorer, and allows you to store not only passwords but credit card numbers and online account information, and can autofill your information as you shop online or paying bills, for example.
  • Password Hasher: This Firefox extension generates strong passwords for you by scrambling your master password with the site’s name. The passwords generated by this extension are better than any you could come up with yourself.
  • PasswordSafe: This free online service works on any modern web browser, for any OS, and a desktop version is available for Windows or Mac. Basically, it uses an encrypted safe to store your passwords, along with other information including software keys, website logins, pin numbers, email logins and more.
  • Password generator: This is a little bookmarklet that combines your master password with the site’s name to create a stronger password, and one that is different for each site. Very handy and simple.
  • Algorithm: The best solution may not even be a technology solution — remembering strong passwords could be as simple as coming up with a way to change a base password using the name of the online service you’re logging into. For example, if you come up with a base password of “xlg519” (based on your partner’s initials and your cat’s birthday), you can add the first two and last two letters of a service’s name (“amon” for Amazon) and you’ve got your password!

Some notes on passwords:

  • Never give out your master password if you use a password manager. Be sure you never forget it.
  • Don’t write passwords on a little piece of paper and stick it in your drawer. If it gets stolen, you only have yourself to blame.
  • Password managers may not be safe on a shared computer — it is probably best to only install them on a computer that only you use.
  • Using common information for your password is not secure — such as your birthday, initials, kids’ birthdays, names, etc. And no, “password” is not a safe password.
  • Using the same password for everything is a bad idea, because once that password is discovered, a thief has access to all your accounts.
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More by this author

Leo Babauta

Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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