• In the wild wild world of online commerce, a password manager is essential.
  • LastPass is a solid choice, but there are several strong alternatives
  • There are privacy issues, but the convenience is probably worth the risks

It’s getting nearly impossible to navigate the security barriers of online shopping.

I’m not complaining: if it’s hard to for you to set, remember, and manage login info across hundreds of websites and services, it’s much harder for bad guys trying to hijack your personal details. But that doesn’t stop them, and they know what they’re doing.

An evocative security image

Into this breach come password managers. If you’re not using one, drop everything and get one. Seriously.

Password managers like the one I use, LastPass, organize all your login info in a single cloud-based vault, so that you don’t have to remember – or even know – your usernames/passwords. When needed, these services make your info available across all your devices and platforms on every site and app.

They also allow you to perform security checks to find weak or duplicate passwords, and in some cases, the services will swap new, stronger passwords in on your behalf, without your intervention.

That’s powerful. If you’re still keeping all your login combos listed in a spreadsheet or, worse, using the same combo everywhere, your life will instantly improve.

Even better, all the leading password managers supply browser extensions, so that when you arrive at your favorite shopping site, your login info is instantly inserted in the right places for quick access. It feels magical.

Privacy matters

Now, I won’t tell you there aren’t privacy concerns here. The more you rely on a single service to protect your privacy, the higher the risk you assume ALL your info someday pours into nefarious hacker hands. As always, the convenience vs privacy tradeoff is your decision. But in this case, the case is pretty cut and dried, for my part.

LastPass, for one, promotes its bullet-proof security, since without it, they don’t have a business. Even so, they’ve had a small breach in 2015, and don’t think for a minute perps aren’t working on the next one right now.

Depending on your OS, tolerance for user interface quirks, and budget, there’s a password manager for you. I chose LastPass since it’s a long time leader on Android and free to use across all your devices (all such services work on all platforms, however). Mac OS devotees might prefer 1Password, a longtime standard, though they charge a small fee monthly. But there are plenty.

Whatever you do, get a password manager. It’s the safe deposit vault you need for the wild world of online shopping.