Manage Passwords in the Cloud Across Platforms and Devices

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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