If you’re just using 1Password to manage your passwords, you’re missing out on its power. With the changes in the new version 6.0, it’s a more robust and secure information manager. Here’s how I use it to transform my digital life.
Creating Passwords Made Easy
The obvious use of 1Password is to store your passwords, but some users miss out on the password creation function. I’m always stuck coming up with new passwords. I used to use Wolfram Alpha to generate a password, but it’s much easier in 1Password. In the latest version, the program lets you create Diceware passwords. Those are random words like the famous XKCD suggestion of correct-staple-horse-battery. Not only are Diceware passwords more secure, but they are easier to type.
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Securing (and Changing) the Passwords You Have
If you use the same password more than once, it’s time for a change. Starting with 1Password is great, but what about all the existing websites you visit? When you first start using 1Password, it asks you to save new logins. Once you get a few of those in the system, it’s time to do a security audit.
The 1Password security audit checks for a few different risks in your passwords:
Watchtower: You may need to enable this feature, but it checks web sites against sites that have had security programs in the past and suggests some changes.
Weak Passwords: Password1 or 1234 are weak. The password might be too short or just a word in the dictionary.
Duplicate Passwords: I think 1Password should list these first. These are the ones with the greatest risk to your security. Change these first!
Stale Passwords: Even if you have a secure password, old passwords are a risk. The longer a password has been out there, the more potential it has to be hacked. I’ll look at these occasionally and either change the password or close the account.
Beyond Passwords: What Else Does 1Password Store
1Password doesn’t store just passwords. Here’re the other items it stores and how to use them better.
Credit Cards: The crucial information like the number, expiration date, and verification code are just the beginning. If your wallet is lost or stolen, you want to be able to cancel the card. 1Password gives you space for phone numbers and URLs. I don’t like keeping this information in my phone’s address book because that advertises the type of credit cards I have.
Identities: I hate typing the same information over and over again. 1Password lets you store your name, address and phone number in their database. Browsers let you do that, but usually just for one person. I put in all my family members. I also put another piece of sneaky information in this area: answers to security questions. You know, the dumb verification questions like “What is your favorite restaurant?” I certainly don’t remember it for other family members. 1Password lets me put that info in there. Truth: I lie about these answers. Where I met my spouse is something you could find out. I put the “fake” answers to these questions in the notes field. That way I can track my lies and keep myself more secure.
I also have power-of-attorney to take care of my mother. I attach those key documents to her identity. That way I always have them wherever I go.
Bank Accounts: just like the credit card info, 1Password lets you put in phone numbers. In the notes section, I’ll add the “fake” answers to verification questions they ask on the phone or online.
Driver’s License: sure you could look in your wallet for this info, but like identities, it’s nice to have everyone’s info in there. One obvious thing to add here that people forget is a copy of your driver’s license. Places ask to verify that all the time. Every entry in 1Password has an attachment field. Scan your license and those of your family members and attach it. I try to avoid pulling out my wallet whenever possible. When a hotel or something asks me to verify who I am, I show them my 1Password attachment. Not everyone accepts that, but it’s becoming more common.
Email accounts: this section is for all those server names and port numbers. It also includes a section for the host’s contact information. That’s great when email is down. In the notes field, I put the answers to any verification questions. Not only do I include my email account, but family members for whom I give tech support. In other words, Mom.
Memberships: this is pretty much a catch-all section for account numbers that don’t fit anywhere else. I keep mostly insurance information here for the car, auto, and health. I also add pictures of these cards in the attachment section. Those attachments save me time at the doctor’s office. I’ll always offer to email my card in advance to save time at check-in.
One glaring omission in 1Password is tracking assets like a car or a computer. The most logical place is membership. I put the serial number as the member ID I’ll name the asset in the title section and then put tech support’s information in the phone and URL fields. I’ll manually add a field for purchase date and warranty expiration date. Then I attach the receipt in the attachment section. I also attach a picture of the asset. You could put this in any section or the secure notes. The problem with secure notes is you can’t search the contents.
Passport: this has the same function as the driver’s license. You can track your information as well as other family members. Here again, I take a picture and add it as an attachment.
Reward Program: that’s usually frequent flyer miles. 1Password lets you include fields like a phone number for reservations and customer service. One thing I add to each of these is my TSA PreCheck known flyer number. That’s a piece of information I’ll need when on the phone with these companies. If I have any travel vouchers, I keep digital copies of them in the attachments field.
Social Security Number: treat this just like driver’s license or passports. I keep my family’s vital information in there. I also keep my Employer ID Number (EIN) in there. That’s the number I give out as a contractor. In the attachment section, I include my W-9. Anyone who does freelancing usually needs to give out a W-9.
Software Licenses: gosh I love this feature. I have so much software to keep track of in my life. I also hate typing those long registration numbers. 1Password is smart enough that it tries to change the icon to the software program if it knows it. Since programs get petty about names, 1Password includes fields for whom the program is licensed to and the email address. The killer feature though is a spot for the URL to download the program again. In the notes field, I include any answers to verification questions. For the attachment, I add a pdf of the receipt for the software purchase.
Wireless Routers: Another very cool item 1Password stores for you. I always try to add a password to 1Password before I type it in the device. That way I can add it to other devices later. In this section, you can add the IP address of the configuration page and the type of security the device uses. In the notes section, I put any modifications to the standard settings on the router. That’s things like the DMZ or the port mappings. To play it safe, I also attach a PDF of the router’s configuration page.
Secure Notes: This section lets you store anything without any fields or sections. It’s all notes along with attachments. The secure notes are where I keep notes for when something goes wrong. For example, if my credit card is stolen or changed, I have a note that tells me all the places I need to call with the new information. In this section, I keep the recovery codes for anything requiring two-factor authentication. The contents of a note won’t show up in the search.
Database and Server: These sections are similar to the email account section. It lets you track IP numbers, URL, logins and support phone numbers.
Outdoor license: this is the only section I don’t use. I don’t hunt. Oh well!
Using the Apple Watch
When they first introduced an app on the Apple Watch, I couldn’t figure out the proper use case. The Apple Watch won’t store the information, so you’ll need your phone. Why not just look it up on your phone?
Then I was on a flight buying a wifi pass. My phone and wallet were terribly inaccessible. Then I realized how valuable being able to see that credit card number was. On my next flight, I didn’t make the same mistake.
I added other things to the watch I’m typically asked over the phone: key account numbers for vendors, social security numbers, and verification codes. You’ll figure out what works best for you. Maybe you need that outdoor license on your watch?
Browser Extensions, Favorites, and Tags
1Password wouldn’t do me much good if I had to look up a password each time in the app. After you install 1Password, you’ll need to add the extensions for each of your browsers. That allows 1Password to enter your passwords automatically and create new ones in your browser.
The pieces of information you access the most across browsers should be in your favorites. I keep my key credit cards and my primary identity in there. That saves me a few steps in traversing the 1Password menu.
The tag features work like tags in every other program. It lets you search and organize the little bits of information that 1Password holds. They also work like smart folders. When I tag different members of my family, I can easily find and enter critical information online. For example, under my tag Mom, I have her driver’s license, social security card, bank logins and her vital passwords. I also use this to separate logins I use for work and personal. The tags are the secret for using the browser extension as efficiently as possible.
I was timid at first with 1Password. I just kept a few hard-to-remember passwords that were assigned to me. The more information I put in there, the more valuable and indispensable it became. All of this information was available somewhere else, but having it in one app kept me organized. It also kept me safer when I need to solve a problem quickly and don’t have everything handy. My wallet was stolen recently, and since I had all my info in 1Password, I was quickly able to recover.