Whitson Gordon of Lifehacker has an article today talking about alternatives to the online password manager LastPass. LastPass noticed a traffic anomaly on their network that they couldn’t explain, and they decided to be proactive. Just in case people’s passwords got stolen, some users were required to change their master password. It sounds like LastPass did the right thing. With recent articles detailing security questions about DropBox and cloud computing in general, people are a little bit jumpy about personal data stored online. LastPass uses end-to-end encryption though so your passwords are encrypted with a master password that you specify before they are sent to the LastPass servers.
The first alternative password manager that’s mentioned in the Lifehacker article is KeePass. I’ve been using KeePass for two years, and it works well. It’s a free and open source application, but it’s written in C# and .NET. It’s been ported to various platforms including mobile devices. I use it on Windows and also on Linux running with Mono, which is an open source implementation of Microsoft’s .NET technology.
KeePass has a somewhat technical interface, and the casual user may prefer a more polished option like 1Password. 1Password costs about $40 and used to only run on Apple products but now has Windows and Android versions, although it looks like Linux is not an option.
KeePass’ days as a cross-platform Wunderkind may be numbered. Mono, which is necessary to run KeePass on Linux, is a project of Novell, Inc., who also produce the SUSE Enterprise Linux distribution. Novell was recently sold, and as this post on ZDNet indicates, Mono is being shut down. All 30 developers working on Mono appear to be without a job at this point, which pretty clearly indicates that Mono is dead in the water. Microsoft doesn’t produce non-Windows versions of .NET or C#. If you’re using Mono to run KeePass or other .NET applications on Linux, then it may be time to assess your options.
Which brings us back to LastPass. LastPass is built seemingly with a similar philosophy as DropBox. They keep it simple and make it run everywhere. LastPass also has much better web browser integration than KeePass, which is an attractive feature. LastPass is free to use, but they also offer a premium version for $12/year. They have versions for basically any computer or mobile device you’d care to run it on. At the moment, their servers are getting hit with heavy traffic because of people changing their passwords. But if you’re looking for an easy, secure way to keep passwords synced across your computers and devices, then check out LastPass.