We use terrible passwords because they’re otherwise hard to remember, and despite all the warnings and advice we hear, changing them is absurdly tedious. But a potential fix has arrived in the form of an updated password manager from the cybersecurity company Dashlane.
The desktop app, announced last week, can automatically organize and analyze your passwords across multiple services. It can also instantly change every single one of your passwords to secure and unique ones, without your having to visit a single site.
Though there’s currently a bit of a wait list to access the tool, eventually anyone who wants in will be able to install the free software.
And once you see some of its best features I tried out below, you’ll definitely want to.
Automatically collects your data
When you log in to the Dashlane desktop app, it’ll ask for access to your browser and then automatically recognize the passwords you’ve already saved in your browser’s password locker.
After waiting for a few moments, and granting the Dashlane app access to certain accounts, they’ll appear before your eyes, like magic.
Analyze the quality of your passwords
After the system has your account information, you can navigate the app’s sidebar to complete different tasks. Click on the Security Dashboard, and it automatically runs an analysis on your passwords and then gives you a score out of 100 percent, as shown below:
It identifies what your specific problems are — whether it’s weak passwords, compromised passwords, or reused passwords — and then creates pathways for you to solve them. For instance, in the few passwords it collected from my accounts, it found that I repeat them often. So I was able to open up a list of the suspect security codes and change them. Which leads us to what is, quite possibly, Dashlane’s best feature …
Change your giant list of passwords quickly
Dashlane advertises that its Password Manager can change all your accounts’ security codes with just one click. In theory, this is possible. But in practice it’s a little bit more complicated than that.
You can identify which accounts you want to change your password for manually, by selecting the Password section on the app’s sidebar, or via a nifty tool like the one I mentioned above. It’ll show you a list, and you can check a box to the right of each account you want to alter, like so:
Once you click the green Change passwords button in the upper-right corner of the screen, Dashlane will begin connecting with each separate website to do the deed. This is where it gets messier than Dashlane advertises.
Dashlane will connect to each website separately, assuming your account is still active and whatever login info you had saved in your browser is up to date. In some cases, you may need to answer security questions you created on an individual website (“What’s your mother’s maiden name?”) to get Dashlane into a site. Those queries pop up in separate boxes and add some lag to the process.
When it’s all done, each account will be assigned a new ultra-secure password: long strings of letters and numbers that you will never have to remember. All of these are securely encrypted locally on your computer. The only thing you need to remember to access them is your Dashlane account’s master password (which is securely verified with a code sent to your email, every time you log in).
Eventually, Dashlane will let you tailor your account so that some passwords just automatically change themselves at set intervals. (In case you weren’t aware, changing your passwords often is the main way you avoid getting hacked.)
After all this, you can download Dashlane’s browser extension, available for Safari, Firefox, and Chrome.
Once it’s installed and you’ve logged in, a small Dashlane symbol of a jumping gazelle-like animal will appear in any username and password box you come across online, like so:
Click the symbol, and all your login options will appear. If you have multiple logins for an account, Dashlane will show the varying usernames.
Once you select an account, it’ll automatically log you in. In cases where you have only one account, it’ll automatically enter the information and begin logging you in once you arrive at the sign-in page. (This setting is adjustable, in case you share your computer with someone.)
The only catch
While the password manager is free on your desktop (where I’d guess most of us do our password changing), it’ll sync to your mobile devices only if you sign up for a premium account, which costs $40 a year. This is more expensive than Dashlane’s competitors like LastPass ($12 a year) and 1Password (a one-time $50 cost for Mac or Windows clients but free on mobile). Compared with those two, however, Dashlane is better designed and easier to use, and the auto-change feature is likely to make passwords more secure for its users than anything the competition offers right now.