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You can save your passwords insecurely... if you want. But it would be better to rely on software designed for the job.

I have an iPad and I was thinking I could keep a list of passwords on a Note page. Is the iPad secure enough to do this?

In this excerpt from Answercast #43, I look at methods of securely saving passwords and recommend applications designed for the job.

Is a password list safe?

My gut reaction is to say no.

In reality, it can be... but what you've described is very, very simple and unfortunately, it's too simple.

You could easily lose your iPad and anybody who then gets a hold of it has this note that contains all of your passwords.

Whether or not that's a problem for you, well, I guess it depends on who finds it and what other information on that iPad may lead them to the accounts for which those passwords apply.

Password safety

In reality, it can be safe.

The way it becomes safe is if you have your passwords stored in some kind of encrypted repository. In other words, if you have an application that you can use to encrypt the data:

  • So that if somebody does get a hold of your iPad;

  • Or somehow the data on your iPad becomes compromised;

  • The data that contains your passwords is not visible without knowing some kind of master password.

You can do that with an encrypted note. I assume that there are applications on the iPad (and other mobile devices) that will let you take a note (or a file, or a text file, or a document) and encrypt it in some form – that's great.

Password applications

What I actually recommend you do instead is to get an application that is specifically designed to solve the very problem you're attempting to solve.

  • In my case, I use LastPass.

  • I know RoboForm is another alternative that also does this.

In both cases, an actual application is downloaded and installed on your device. That application's job is to maintain your passwords (a list of your passwords; a repository of your passwords) in an encrypted form.

Password synchronization

When you use a utility like LastPass or RoboForm, you get the added benefit of automatic synchronization with whatever other devices you might have.

In my case, I have several PCs; I have several laptops; I have my Mac; I have my phone; I have my tablets.

  • LastPass works on all of them and when I add a password or update a password on any of those devices, it's automatically synchronized securely to all of the others.

    LastPass is particularly unique in that it does the encryption and decryption only on the devices; in other words, nothing is ever transmitted that isn't encrypted.

    When I change a password on a machine:

    • It then gets encrypted;

    • And is then transmitted to the LastPass servers;

    • And then from those servers on down to my other machines.

    • It's only decrypted when I provide the correct master password.

    So that's my advice.

    Take some extra steps

    You can do what you're doing. You do need to take some extra steps.

    The extra step that I recommend you take is to actually get an application that's designed to solve the very problem that you're trying to solve. Something like LastPass or RoboForm.

Article C5683 - August 11, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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2 Comments
Billie Keirstead
August 14, 2012 10:32 AM

Ipad notes will disappear with out notice and are not stored in the cloud even when you set up iCloud to do it. Lots of posts on disappearing Notes.

Marko
August 15, 2012 3:50 PM

Check out the free version of Keeper for IOS devices. The information is encrypted and can be imported and exported between devices.

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