9 Comments

Summary:

Like most web workers, I have a bazillion on-line passwords to manage. Alright, perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration, but let’s just say that my number of passwords rivals the number of appearances Mario has in his various Nintendo games. Of course, there’s a number of solid […]

Dropbox on the MacLike most web workers, I have a bazillion on-line passwords to manage. Alright, perhaps that’s a mild exaggeration, but let’s just say that my number of passwords rivals the number of appearances Mario has in his various Nintendo games.

Of course, there’s a number of solid password managers out there: 1Password, RoboForm and many others come to mind. Problem solved, right? Not so fast my current-day cryptologists. We’re web workers and by definition we should generally be able to work on any computer we have.

That’s where the challenge lies for me personally as I’m constantly cycling through various computers for my web work. As I look around the home office right now, I count no less than half-a-dozen PCs and Macs.

Before you incur the wrath of the “Why do you need so many computers?” comment: my full-time gig has me reviewing various devices of all shapes, sizes and operating systems. To do that effectively from a mainstream consumer point-of-view, I ensure that I can work from all of them. Just not at the same time.

See the problem, now?

Thanks to Jason Clarke, I read that Joel Spolsky has a solution that’s right up my alley, and anyone else’s if they use several devices on multiple platforms. Joel takes advantage of Dropbox, currently one of my favorite cloud synchronization services. Aside from it’s sheer simplicity, I was drawn to Dropbox for its cross-platform support. Macs and PCs were supported from the get-go and last month saw the release of a Dropbox Linux client. So now we have the “glue” to manage passwords across devices and platforms.

What can we glue together in the cloud to manage those passwords then? Joel figured out that Password Safe in Windows and Password Gorilla (shown) on Mac and Linux share a common file format. Using those tools on their respective platforms produces a password file usable by both, so synching that file with an automated service like Dropbox does the trick! You simply keep the password file in your Dropbox or an appropriately named sub-folder. If you want to take a more spartan approach, you could even use a simple text file on all three platforms and use the same “glue” since Dropbox supports any file format and encrypts all files.

Obviously if you’re a Firefox user and you don’t mind using the beta Password Synchronization feature of Foxmarks or the prototype version of Mozilla’s Weave project, you have other solutions.  However, I find that as a web worker, one of the first tasks I perform on a new device is to get my file synchronization framework in place for maximum flexibility. If I’m going to do that anyway, I figure I might as well leverage that framework for my credentials. Fans of Password Gorilla likely know that you can simply use that app across Mac, Linux and Windows if passwords in the clouds aren’t your thing.

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  1. Pretty cool. I use the Password Manager on my Mac, but I’ll have to check Password Gorilla out. Thanks!

  2. https://my.1password.com/ has been working for me. I can access all my passwords online.

  3. Tara Kelly (Passpack) Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    Rather than use an intermediary service as “glue”, you could try and give online password management a try. It sounds like what your looking for and has a few advantages over a grassroots system:

    1. A proper password manager will not be able to read your passwords since they are encrypted — much more secure than an unprotected password file.

    2. Password managers are built specifically for this task and include all the tools you’d expect like tagging, paged browsing, search, 1 Click Login, etc.

    3. All you need is a browser: Mac, Win, Linux or PDA all give you 24/7 access to your passwords.

    I’m a Passpack founder, so I obviously have a product bias – but just run a search fro “online password manage” and you’ll have a few options to choose from.

    I’d love to see a comparison post on Web Worker Daily!

    – Tara

  4. I just saw this post in Google Reader and was going to comment and mention Passpack but Tara, who’s exceptionally great to deal with for support/general inquiries at Passpack, beat me to it. ;)

    Seriously though, any true Web worker definitely needs to give Passpack a try. It’s *the* most secure Web app I’ve ever dealt with and I’ve completely abandoned all Windows-based password managers.

    In addition, they also support offline usage via Google Gears.

  5. Hi Kevin. Full disclosure here: I work for http://www.nomadesk.com, which offers small businesses (or nomadic professionals, as we like to call ourselves) an innovative way to share documents and work together on a “virtual fileserver.” I read your post on Dropbox and how you use it to synchronize passwords, with great interest.
    I just wanted to add NomaDesk to the mix, because it comes with security features specifically geared towards the digital nomad, such as local encryption and “remote shredding” with TheftGuard. That means that your password file will actually be encrypted on each of your PCs. You only need to remember the NomaDesk password to unlock the virtual fileserver. In the event that one of your PCs gets stolen you can shred it remotely.
    Anyway, I would appreciate your review – in due time.

    Thanks!

  6. Good comments and I agree, there are a number of web-based password management services out there, some of which offer companion desktop clients as well. My intention wasn’t to say that the above method is the best one; that’s a personal choice of course and there are many great options. I’m a fan and user of 1Password, but I’ll certainly take a look at some of the other suggestions mentioned; thanks!

  7. I use Dropbox with KeePass Password Safe (on Windows) and KeePassX (on Mac/Linux) and it works like a charm.
    I like KeePass over Password Safe because it design and the ability of use an external pendrive as hardware key with your master password.

  8. As Leandro I am a user of KeePass and I use it at work on a PC and at home on my Mac. Passwords are synced through Dropbox. Works like a charm. I even wrote a post about it. Soon after that I read Joels post. Still think that Keepass looks way better but it does indicate that more and more people are relying on the cloud for synchronising their data.
    The new style of applications like Evernote seem to understand this principle very good.

  9. WebWorkerDaily » Archive Foxmarks Adds Cross-Platform Password Sync « Friday, October 17, 2008

    [...] 17th, 2008 (9:03am) Kevin C. Tofel No Comments Recently, we shared one of several cross-platform methods to synchronize passwords using the cloud. There’s many available options and methods to tackle this challenge, and you can add another [...]

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