It is probably a good idea to start with an explanation and go from there. Login Software refers to applications and tools that are linked to log ins. They can be used to manage all your account logins, to sign you in automatically on sites, or to perform other tasks like generating secure passwords to make sure that passwords cannot be guessed by attackers.
The software comes in two major forms: First as web browser plugins and second as standalone applications for the desktop. Both types have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.
- Browser plugins and extensions are installed directly in the web browser, which makes them accessible right away.
- Some, like LastPass for instance, integrate nicely into the browser, offering automatic logins or access to tools like the secure password generator.
- Their tie-in with the web browser usually means that it is easy to synchronize the accounts on multiple computer systems.
- Desktop applications run independently from the web browser, which some users may see as an advantage
- The password database is stored locally
- Backups are usually possible
Some desktop applications like KeePass offer browser plugins which can be installed by the user to connect the local password manager with the web browser.
The most basic login software available is the browser’s built-in password manager. They differ a lot, both in functionality and security. The Firefox password manager for instance can be protected with a master password that needs to be entered before the log ins become available. Google Chrome on the other hand is missing such a feature.
This basically means that anyone with access to your Chrome installation can log into all accounts that you have selected to save the log ins for in the browser. In Firefox, a user would have to enter the master password on start before that becomes possible.
The master password is on the other hand disabled by default and needs to be enabled before it protects the data.
Firefox users who save account logins in the browser should enable the master password. This is done by selecting one password that protects all passwords that are saved in the browser. It is important to select a secure password, that is not easily guessable.
Browser plugins extend the functionality of the built-in password manager. Most add more features that improve security or usability. LastPass for instance adds a secure password generator, automatic log in functionality and cross-browser syncing to the default options.
LastPass protects the log ins with a password as well, which means that no one can access the account related information if the correct password is not entered. This works in a similar fashion as the Firefox master password, with the difference that the data is stored in the cloud on LastPass servers and not locally like the browser does.
The fact that sensitive data is stored online may be enough to convince some users that an online login software is not the right choice for them.
Desktop login software
A desktop login software stores the account data locally. KeePass, a very popular free application can protect the data in several ways that can even be combined with each other. Users can use a password or a keyfile to protect the data.
It comes with the same set of tools that online password managers offer. It includes a secure password generator, password groups, importing and exporting, and browser plugins for users who like better integration in browsers such as Firefox or Google Chrome.
Desktop or Browser Plugin
This comes down to personal preference mostly. Users who do not want their data in the cloud are more likely to pick a desktop login software, users who want to synchronize their passwords on multiple computer systems and browsers may prefer a browser plugin that simplifies that process.