The Internet has expanded into every aspects of our day-to-day life. We are now dependent more over online cloud-based services then we used to just few years back. Everything related to our personal and professional life is getting synced to the cloud. The benefits of this transition has also brought with itself the fear of getting ruined when a cloud service or anything related to it gets compromised. We have seen many high-profile websites getting hacked, user data getting compromised and shared in the dark alleys of the Internet, critical personal and financial data getting sold too.
Identity theft is not new but these days identity thieves don’t have to put much effort to gather data about their victims. Thanks to every single personal bit that we share so easily on social networks, which we may have never shared even with our friends in real life. For those thieves, getting hold of birthdays, anniversary dates, nicknames, and other personal data about you is very easy. When most users still like keeping lame passwords even after warnings, the data gathered is like a gold mine for these identity thieves.
In our article about good password security practices, we emphasized on some real solutions which may help keep passwords, personal and sensitive financial data securely. In the same article, we also named a few very good password managers. Almost all of these password managers are cross-platform supported. They not only run on major operating systems like Windows, Mac and Linux but also supports major mobile operating systems like Apple iOS and Android. Out of the several password managers named in that article, KeePass is one. In today’s article, we will see how to take advantage of KeePass to keep our passwords secure.
Installing KeePass and Setting It Up
KeePass is available for download as freeware for majority of desktop and mobile operating systems. At around 2.5MB, KeePass is very light-weight. The installation process is also pretty straightforward and doesn’t take more than 6.4MB of hard disk space. During installation, KeePass installer offers three different installation options, namely, Full installation, Compact installation and Custom installation.
We felt this options might confuse new users since some of the components are very technically termed. For this reason, we will recommend new users to keep the default (Full installation) and complete the process. The installation process is very fast and takes only a few seconds to complete.
KeePass User Interface and Ease of Use
When we launched the application for the first time, we were asked if we want to enable automatic update checking or not. We selected the recommended option, which is enable. This will keep our KeePass application always updated.
The application window finally opens up in front of us. Here, the developers of KeePass should really consider working more here, like displaying a tip for new users. The application looks completely haunting at first glance. For new users, this might be enough to simply close and uninstall KeePass.
Populating KeePass with your passwords
The user interface may seem very scant but creating a database, which will store your passwords, isn’t hard. Go to File Menu > New or you can press Ctrl + N to create your database. You will be asked the file name of the database and location where you want to keep it. The database is saved as KeePass KDBX (.kdbx) file. When you click on Save, KeePass will offer you three ways (you can keep any one, or a combination of two or keep all three selected) to protect your database.
The first option (selected by default) is to use a master password to encrypt the database. Try to keep your master password as strong as possible. If you’re not going to use the other two options, the security of your database depends on your master password strength. As always suggested by us, use a combination of alphabets, numbers and special characters and make it long. The built-in password strength indicator will help you understand the strength of the master password. From now on you will probably have to remember only the master password.
The second option lets you either link a keyfile (which you already have) or create a new key to encrypt the database. This is like a second key to get access to your vault. Even if your master password is stolen, you can assure yourself that the database is safe, when you are using both master password and a key file based protection.
The third option lets you use your local Windows user account, but is a little dangerous too. Just below the option, the developers have warned about using this option. You can read the warning message in the screenshot above.
Customizing the KeePass Database, adding websites, login details and more.
If you are using a password manager like 1Password, Kaspersky Password Manager, RoboForm, etc. You can easily import your passwords to KeePass. KeePass uses the popular CSV export format that various password storing apps available in the market use, making it hassle free to import the exported password databases to your KeePass databases.
Storing a password to the database is simple. You can either go to the Edit Menu > Add Entry… or press Ctrl + I keyboard shortcut. Now, copy the URL, username and the password and paste them in the dialog box. You can further customize options like adding an expiry date, changing the default icon (although the icons look outdated, but you have the option to choose your own).
The inbuilt password generator comes with a lot of options. You can also use its pre-built algorithms and patterns to generate passwords. Only thing missing from the password generator is a password strength indicator.
We love freeware and open-source software here at MTG. KeePass is a feature rich, secure, open-source password manager. Apart from the scant user interface, we don’t have any other complaints about KeePass. Thanks to the active contributors, you can easily get a portable version of KeePass for your mobile. Simply visit its official homepage to see if they have a package for your operating system.
Do you keep your passwords in a password manager? Which is the best password manager in your opinion? Do let us know your opinion about KeePass in the comments below.