Password saver saves time when using Internet sites

In the News

THE PLAIN DEALER
Brett Burney
Special to The Plain Dealer

Password saver saves time when using Internet sites

How do you keep track of all you computer passwords? Do you use the same password everywhere so it's easy to remember? Or does your monitor have yellow Post-It notes tagged everywhere to help you keep track of all your different passwords?

I hope it's obvious that neither of these methods is a very safe way to keep up with your tizzy of passwords, you might want to try a small application like Password Locker from Capitol Solutions.

Installation of Password Locker was easy - I just popped in the CD and hit OK. The first time I launched the program, a message appeared that informed me about my new "Master Password Locker PIN". It also asked me for a couple of security questions such as my city of birth and my favorite teacher's name. I'm glad it asked for this extra info, but I wished it could have selected which questions I wanted to answer.

The first box that pops up when you launch the program asks you to enter your PIN. If you forget it, you can click a small button that brings up another dialog box asking for the answers to the security questions you went though in the setup.

Once you enter your PIN, you are taken to another small window, where you actually manage your various passwords. The first entry is your PIN so that you can change it as necessary. To add an account to your list, you simply click the Add button and fill out the appropriate information. You provide the URL of the Web site that needs the password (I simply copied the link from my browser) and then provide the username and password required to enter that site.

You can print out your list of passwords. This is obviously not a very secure thing to do, but is a good idea to keep a paper backup copy of everything in case your computer unexpectedly goes down.

I liked the convenience that Password Locker provides. I have several sites I visit every day at which I have to put in a password, and it can get monotonous typing the same thing over and over. With Password Locker, I simply double-clicked the site I wanted to visit - it took me straight there and logged me in.

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Password Locker, introduced in late March by Capitol Systems, saves and retrieve usernames and passwords in a secure file stored on a desktop computer. The program takes users directly to a Web site and automatically inserts the information required to get into the site.

"This is one of our first products for the consumer market," Capitol Solutions President Tom Costello said. "It solves a problem for anyone who has multiple passwords and can't keep track of them all."

Costello estimates the average Net surfer has created five passwords for everything from accessing their Hotmail account to making bids on eBay. As more Web sites require registration and a username/password before logging on, many users will sacrifice security so they can remember each password.

They may use the same username or password for different accounts. Or they'll stick a Post-It note near their screen, leaving the confidential data exposed to anyone strolling by their den or cubicle.

Password Locker keeps that information hidden, and the software shuts down if the desktop is left unattended for four minutes.

"The key to our product is security," Costello said.

A 20-year veteran of information technology, Costello formed Capitol Systems in 1995 to develop customized software for public agencies and companies. He has created products for the state retirement system and Best Western motels, among others.

Costello spent about two years working on Password Locker. A beta version of the product saved usernames and passwords on the desktop but required users to cut and paste that information into each Web site. Adding the automatic-launch feature saves time and enhances the product's sophistication.

"It's like when computers moved from the old (ASCII) character mode to a Windows platform," Costello said.

Password Locker will work on computers with a Windows 95 or newer operating system, an Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher browser, and a Pentium processor. The software costs $24.95 to download from www.PasswordLocker.com; a CD-ROM is also available.

Costello declined to disclose sales figures; he said Password Locker will be aggressively promoted over the next several months. The product has been featured on Technophobia, a program that appears on local cable TV systems.

Costello's main online competition is Gator.com, a free service that also remembers passwords and encrypts the information onto a user's computer. Although Gator.com has an obvious cost advantage, the tradeoff is that users must deal with pop-up advertising clogging up their screens.

"What differentiates us is that we don't know your passwords," Costello said. "We don't track you around the Net and then turn around and try to sell things to you."