In the last few months the number of passwords, pass phrases, pin codes and other personal identification mechanisms I’ve had to use (and endure) has grown dramatically. Every site I sign up for has a different set of requirements for passwords, and those requirements are growing ever more complicated. And if I don’t use the site all that regularly (like, say, three times a day!) I pretty soon forget the password I had to set up, unless I choose one that is common amongst all sites. And we’re all told how that’s bad for security because if a hacker gets your password to one site, they get it to all of them. It’s a fair point – although if you’re forced to write down your passwords on post-it notes so you can remember them I tend to think that’s even less secure than having a common password.
Enter Keeper. It’s available in the Mac App Store, and is free. Kind of. You can use the free version, but if you want some of the extra features (such as multiple device synchronisation) then there is a subscription fee. This fee is pretty reasonable (at $9.99 per device per year).
What does it do?
Keeper provides a secure repository for all your passwords/passphrases/pincodes. It’s primarily designed around website login details, and offers a space for the login URL which is an active hyperlink that when clicked will open your default browser to the page you’ve specified. It doesn’t appear to automatically login for you (which is largely to be expected since each site has their own idea of how login is done). All your passwords are stored in this one application which is protected by a ‘master password’. Whilst the OSX Keychain does the same kind of thing, keychain ONLY works for logins, doesn’t provide the ability to go straight to the site from the app, and doesn’t allow you to store passwords or codes from things that you haven’t previously visited. Meaning you can’t store your mobile phone PIN code in it. But with Keeper you can.
Keeper’s subscription version (of which you’ll get a free 30 day trial when you download the app and sign up) allows the synchronisation of data seamlessly across your various devices. This can be extremely handy if you’re out and about and someone gives you a password in a meeting for example and you only have your iPhone with you. It doesn’t matter, simply enter the details into Keeper on your iPhone and when you get back home they’ll be sync’d to your Mac as well.
The app automatically locks itself after a few minutes of inactivity so that if you inadvertently leave it open in the background there’s minimal danger of you walking away and someone approaching your unlocked computer to grab all your passwords. The data that’s stored on the filesystem is encrypted so that a hacker can’t just look at the data file and get your passwords from outside of the app.
Working on OSX, Windows, Linux, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, iPad, Windows Phone means that just about whichever device and/or operating system you’re working on at the time, there’s a version of Keeper that’ll be syncing your passwords between themselves keeping your passwords easily accessible to you, but not accessible to people who shouldn’t have access to them.
Another feature which I’ve not yet used, but actually looks like quite a useful utility is the username and password generator. Shown as small dice on the right of the relevant box, clicking this will generate a random username or password for you. This would probably be even better if there was a way to automatically supply this information to the website after you’ve clicked on the link, since the usernames and passwords it comes up with, whilst highly secure and unguessable, are also quite hard to type correctly. I suppose though you can always copy and paste – I’m just lazy.
It’s fair to say that the Keeper documentation says that automatic ‘copy and pasting’ of your username and password should occur when you click the link to open a website login page. It doesn’t work for me on OSX Lion (and I’m pretty sure it didn’t on Snow Leopard either).
Finally, if your device is lost or stolen, Keeper will automatically destroy all the data within itself in the event of 5 unsuccessful login attempts. This helps to ensure that if your device should fall into the wrong hands, the new recipient doesn’t get much of a chance to get all your passwords.
I’ve found Keeper to be very slow to load which is not good when you are after a password in a hurry. When the program times out and you log back in it does not remember where you were so you have to again search the folders which are also very slow to load.
The simple interface of this program is excellent, it needs more work on it’s speed and ability to remember the last position. The regular auto cues to subscribe to their yearly back up service is also a pain and only adds to the slowness of getting in and grabbing a password.
Positives: Sync multiple devices
Negatives: Requires active online internet connection
Trial Available: Yes
Price: $9.99 per year for multi-device sync