Keeping track of all your passwords can become a huge burden, but using the same password everywhere is terribly dangerous. You may have heard the recent news of the HeartBlead bug—a bug in OpenSSL that let servers leak passwords and other secure data as explained in this xkcd comic. If your password was leaked by a compromised server, and you've ever used that password elsewhere, all those accounts are now vulnerable. That's one of the many reasons why it's so important to use a password manager.
A password manager is an app that will automatically generate secure, random passwords for your online accounts, remember then and autofill them whenever you need to login, and keep your passwords synced between all of your devices. There's a number of great apps for this, including the polished 1Password that we've already shown how to use, but also the cross-platform LastPass. Lastpass is unique in that its free to start using, and lets you securely share credentials within an organization without revealing your actual password.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to start using LastPass, use it to manage your passwords, share your team account credentials, and more. If you're just getting started with LastPass, this tutorial has everything you need to hit the ground running.
Create an Account
Getting started with LastPass just requires installing the app, setting up a free account to keep your passwords synced, and finally installing it on your mobile devices to keep your passwords with you wherever you are. Just got to the LastPass site, and click the Download Free button, which will automatically show you the download page link appropriate for your computer. Download the app, then install it as normal. LastPass will then automatically take you to the appropriate extension store to add its browser extension to your browser, so install that as normal as well.
Once it is installed, click the new Asterisk icon in your browser toolbar or address bar, depending on your browser, to create an account. You'll need your email address, timezone, and a master password you'll use to unlock your LastPass account. This is the one password you'll need for everything: you'll only need to memorize your LastPass password, and that will unlock all of your other online accounts. You may want to write it down somewhere to make sure you don't forget it, but make sure it's somewhere secure that you'd feel safe keeping, say, your bank account info.
Once you've made your account, LastPass will show the settings to keep a history of your logins and form fills as well as send anonymous error reporting data to help improve LastPass. I recommend leaving these boxes checked, as they are by default.
You can then install LastPass on any other computers you may have, as well as get its LastPass Mobile apps on your smartphone or tablet. It's free on all computers and tablets, but you'll need a $12/year Premium subscription to use it on your smartphone—though there is a 14 day free trial to test it out on mobile and see if you need it.
Saving Passwords to LastPass
There are two main ways to add your site passwords to your new LastPass database: saving them automatically as you use your online accounts, or adding them manually.
Save Passwords Automatically
Using the built-in prompts from LastPass is not only the most common way to add new passwords, but this is also the easiest. Here's how it works. Just visit a site where you have an account. Once the page has loaded, add your account info as normal, then click the Asterisk icon in the text box to open LastPass.
Here you will be able to add the new website by clicking on the Plus icon in the username field. LastPass will automatically recognize the account info you've already typed in, and you can add any extra info you'd like. It will also automatically suggest a secure password for you if you're creating a new account, or you can get it to suggest one manually if you're updating your account info. Once you're done, click Save Site, and the site credentials will automatically be filled by LastPass the next time you go to login.
Save Passwords Manually
Occasionally, you may want to add a site, but the aforementioned method won't work or you'd rather just enter your info directly. For these situations, LastPass' manual entry is the best option.
Click on the Asterisk Logo in your address bar to open LastPass, and enter your email address and master password to log in. You'll then be directed to your Vault, where you can see all the password and folders you've saved.
To add the new website to your Vault, click Add Site on the left side of the page. A pop-up box will ask if you would like to continue. Click Yes. At this point a new pop-up will prompt you to add your new website. Fill in the URL, Name of the page, Username, Password, and any Notes that you would like to associate with this page. Click Submit to save your new login.
You should note there is also a small eye icon in the password field. This button lets you reveal your password during your account set up, if desired, which can make it easier to be sure you've got the correct password entered versus the traditional dots. There's also a password strength indicator, as well as options to auto-login or require your master password before opening the site you've added—great options to either simplify your login or make one account more secure.
Using Groups in LastPass
Passwords have become so ubiquitous these days that just having a database of them isn't enough. If you've got several personal email accounts, along with a few business email accounts and perhaps leftover university accounts, just Gmail alone can end up with a half-dozen logins. LastPass' Groups are a great way to simplify this, by letting you store your related passwords (say, everything work related) in one folder.
To create a group, click on the Create Groups button on the left side of the page, then add the name you want for the group. Now you can move your existing accounts into the groups you want, and when you add new logins in the future, you can set their group in the new account prompt.
Then, you can login to your accounts directly from the LastPass Vault as well. Just open the appropriate group, click on the name of the site you wish to access, and a new tab will open in your browser with the website login open and the proper credentials already filled in. That's a great way to use LastPass as both a password manager and a bookmarks list for your most important sites.
Securely Share Passwords
LastPass’s share feature allows you to grant access to one of your logins to someone, without having to give them your LastPass master password. That's a great way to, say, share a company Twitter account's password around your social media team, among other things. Best of all, if you update your account info on the shared account, it'll automatically be updated in your colleague's LastPass account.
To share a login, locate it in your LastPass Vault then click on the icon that looks like two human outlines. A new pop-up box will display where you can type a friend’s email address that is associated with their LastPass account, or choose a friend from a list of people you've already shared with. Add a message, if needed, then click the Share button. They will be notified that you have shared the credentials and they now have access to the site you want them to access.
Sharing individual passwords is great for personal and light business use, but if you're using LastPass in your company to share a number of important passwords, it'd be far easier to share everything in one group together. That's one of the many company-focused LastPass Enterprise features that would make it worth upgrading if you want your entire corporate team to use LastPass.
Add Secure Notes
There's more sensitive information you need to remember than just your account logins. There's also your personal info, such as your address and social security number, along with credit cards, real-world accounts like gym memberships, and more. LastPass is perfect as a secure place to keep this info and more in secure notes.
From your LastPass Vault, click on the Add Secure Note link on the left. A pop-up form will prompt you to provide a Name, choose a Folder, select a Note Type and fill in a note below. You also have the ability to require a Password re-prompt to add extra security to especially sensitive data like your SSN. Once you have saved the information, any secure notes you've added shows in your Secure Notes folder, and you can view, share, or edit at any time. You can even use the secure notes' info to fill in forms online if you want.
Putting LastPass to Work
LastPass is a great password manager, with the tools to help you remember all of your sensitive information and protect your accounts with secure, auto-generated passwords. It even lets you share logins with others, a great option for accounts you share with team members. All of that power is enabled by just memorizing one master password, and having the LastPass app installed everywhere you work—and then actually using it.
A password manager is no good if you don't actually rely on it. If you keep using your old, short, easy-to-remember passwords on all of your important accounts, such as your email and social media accounts, then you're just as vulnerable as ever. Instead, start using it for all of your passwords on every account you use online. Use the LastPass keyboard shortcuts to automatically fill out forms for you, and when you're making a new account, use the LastPass password generator as mentioned above to make secure passwords. That's the only way to actually keep yourself safer online with a password manager.
Then, when a security breach happens online, such as the recent Heartblead OpenSSL bug, you'll know that any potentially hacked accounts only had a password that you used with that one account. You can find the accounts that are affected, change their passwords with newer, secure LastPass generated passwords, and save the updated info to your account. It'll still be an annoyance and take up some time, but it'll be far easier—and you'll be far safer—than if you used the same password on every site.
Give LastPass a try, and start saving your data using the steps in this tutorial. If you have any trouble, or need help with anything, leave a comment below and we'll be sure to help you out!
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