Protection file

Saved passwords can be a problem, but so can protection

Q. What about storing passwords used for banking in a browser? Is this a security issue?

A. When it comes to online services, it’s certainly handy to have your computer store passwords available so you don’t have to constantly log in to the sites you visit.

But this convenience comes at a price.

If your computer is configured to save and enforce passwords, it means that anyone with access to your computer can access your online data and accounts.

For the most part, that’s not really a problem. I don’t expect my family or my guests at my house to sit down at my PC and start accessing my online accounts. And even if they did, I lock my screen when the computer is on, but not in use. It’s a habit I picked up in the office that prevents anyone from casually sitting down and accessing things like my email or my other online services.

But the real concern is what happens if your computer is stolen or accidentally left somewhere. If your computer falls into the hands of an unsophisticated thief, it’s really not that hard for him to crack the user account and log in. From there, the thief has access to the files on the PC as well as anything you use to log into your email account or banking sites, especially if you’ve set everything up to log in automatically.

But as we all know, entering a password for each online service is a real headache. Especially if we are diligent and use a unique password for each service.

So yes, saving passwords on a PC is potentially a security issue. But there is a simple solution.

If you encrypt your computer, you can save all the passwords you want because no one will be able to hack into the PC unless they have the decryption key.

I will warn you about this, however. If you encrypt your hard drive and lose your ability to decrypt it, you will permanently lose all access to your data. So be sure to do your research and also make sure to keep a good up-to-date backup of your system before you go this route.

Since I use a laptop and travel with it occasionally, I keep it encrypted. I also encrypt my desktop, but it’s much less likely for someone to break into my home and take it. But you never know.

For encryption, Windows uses a built-in tool called BitLocker, and Apple computers use something called FileVault. Information about these tools is readily available online and worth looking into.