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Obviously seeing as how many of us here are system administrator type people, we have a lot of passwords strung out across numerous systems and accounts. Some of them are low priority, others could cause serious harm to a company if discovered (don't you just love power?).

Simple, easy to remember passwords just aren't acceptable. The only option is complex, hard-to-remember (and type) passwords. So, what do you use to keep track of your passwords? Do you use a program to encrypt them for you (requiring yet another password in turn), or do you do something less complicated such as a piece of paper kept on your person, or is it somewhere in between those options?

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40 Answers

We use SplashID. Works on my desktop and WM phone. It's the only one I have used and I like it.

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iPhone + Handbase (encrypted database app).

I need something to keep passwords that moves with me. I need access to the passwords at home, at work and anywhere because I'm oncall 24x7 1 week in 2, and I don't stay at home when I'm oncall. I need to have access to passwords anywhere and any time. It's no good keeping them on a laptop when I'm at a restaurant in another city and the laptop is at home. I use PCs, Macs and Unix systems and move between them all day, so a Windows-only app, or a Mac-only app won't work for my needs.

I used to keep them in a Palm TX in Handbase (still encrypted), but moved to the iPhone recently which wasn't a good move. The iPhone version of Handbase is a bit wordy, and takes much longer to enter data and retrieve it. And I had a One Time Password generator on the Palm, which I needed. I haven't found one for the iPhone yet.

I keep the database labeled something innocuous like Wine Tastings, so it doesn't look to enticing if I lost the device. The database is backed up. If I lost the iPod, the encrypted password database would probably get erased, and the company would buy another iPhone and I would restore the database.

However I remember about 100 of the most commonly used passwords. I only need to look up the less used.

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I've taken to using an IronKey for some of this. There are some passwords I just plain memorize, like the admin passwords I use every day. For those passwords that I have to know but use once or twice a quarter, putting it on a text-file on an IronKey USB drive works well. It now mounts on Windows, Mac, and Linux! Kind of like truecrypt, but more portable.

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I use automatic password generator 'apg' to provide a list of possible difficult-to-guess but easy-to-remember passwords. Like the following example:

wuWesvupt7 (wu-Wes-vupt-SEVEN)
quirrardAj9 (quirr-ard-Aj-NINE)
urf5Olmenoy (urf-FIVE-Olm-en-oy)
yebTywalAk5 (yeb-Ty-wal-Ak-FIVE)
TihekDuiRen8 (Ti-hek-Du-i-Ren-EIGHT)
Flyahit7 (Flya-hit-SEVEN)

I choose the one I like most and then I save it using 'pwsafe'.

pwsafe has the benefit that you can backup the password file easily and you can merge files in the case you have several computers.

Also, the password goes (by default) to the X clipboard so others can't watch it.

Being both tools command-line makes them easily accesable so you don't have to mess with GUI menus.

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Network password manager is cool. Multi user, ACL per tree, audit on who accessed/changed what.

Complicated passwords tends to be short. Long password (>15) are stronger today, they still resist to rainbow tables and are a pain to brute force. So i tends more to do sentences: "Ireallylikemygmailaccount!" is tronger than "g{#é'4ùdfg", and you don't have to write it down to remember it. Moreover, importants things:

  • Will the password be stored securelly on the remote system ? Many web site store your password in clear and send it back to you when you don't remember
  • Is it send over an encrypted channel ? ftp account over wifi in clear is not secure...
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I'd like to +1 David Pashley's answer above ( i'm new here so need more 'reputation')
I have normally just used a text file encrypted with the different sysadmin's gpg keys and checked into our internal company subversion server. This made it easy to get the changes out to the other admins.

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I'm using gpass (GNOME password manager). It's a small GTK application, requires master key to view all other passwords, uses blowfish for encryption and has the possibility of generating new passwords.

http://projects.netlab.jp/gpass/

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For those on Linux w/ Gnome, you should check out Revelation. Clean interface, applet for taskbar, easy to use. I love it.

Downside is that there aren't a lot of export options (to KeePassX for instance) that are very useful. Because being able to export your database can be important, I wrote a Ruby script for it once, which worked for me.

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I admin linux from a Mac OS X desktop / laptop / iPhone and SWEAR by 1password. Brilliant, frequent updates, rock solid. Can do password storage, generation, logins for web pages, secure notes. With DropBox you can easily sync across machines.

Worth switching to a mac just for 1password. http://agilewebsolutions.com/products/1Password

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