Protect your passwords (Part 3)

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Add passwords

To add a new entry to a group, select the group then right-click the main panel and select ‘Add entry'. A new window opens. Enter a title, username and the password. Again, KeePass will judge the strength of the password for you. Enter the URL for the login page where the credentials will be used, and finally click 'OK'. Now save the database by clicking the floppy disk icon at the top.

The most immediate way to use usernames and passwords saved in the KeePass database is to click on one, then click its URL in the lower pane of the user interface to bring up the relevant login page, and finally drag and drop the username and password into the input fields of the website.

You can also right-click an entry, select 'Copy username' or 'Copy password' and paste the text into the input box on the website. Note, by default, you have12 seconds before the clipboard entry is erased to prevent malware stealing the pasted credentials.

You can also have KeePass attempt to automatically fill in the username and password fields when you visit a website and want to log in. To do so, right-click the relevant entry and select 'Edit/view entry'. This makes the same window appear as when you added the entry's details. Click the ‘Tools' button at the bottom of the window and a small dropdown menu appears. Then click Select field reference > In username field.

A new window appears. Due to a glitch, you must select the entry you want to modify again. Click both the radio buttons marked 'Username' in the lower part of the window, then click 'OK'. Click 'OK' on the parent window. When you select the entry in the main user interface, the details including the URL appear in the lower pane. As before, click the URL to bring up the login page. Return to KeePass, right-click the entry and select 'Perform Auto-type’. Back on the login page, the username and password fields should fill themselves in and log you in.

Most login pages allow you to enter a username then press [Tab], enter the password, and finally log in by pressing [Enter], This is also the default action of Auto-type. If you need to add an extra tab between username and password for Auto-type to log you in properly, you can edit the sequence by right-clicking on the entry, selecting 'Edit/ view entry' and clicking on the Auto-type tab on the resulting details window. Click the ‘Override default sequence' button and you can add a new '[TAB]'to the sequence.

Securing KeePass

KeePass has a lot of options for customising its behaviour, chief among which are the security settings. To access these, click 'Tool /Options’. The resulting window has several tabs. Ensure the Security tab is selected. The four most important checkboxes are at the top of the pane, and relate to the length of time before KeePass locks itself after periods of inactivity. However, there are also some very useful options in the lower pane. Among these are the options for locking the interface and exiting KeePass instead of locking. These are very useful in situations where you need to get KeePass off the screen as quickly as possible and have it secure itself. Also make sure you tick the box that locks KeePass if you suspend the computer. That way, if you’re running it on a laptop when you're out and about, you can simply close the lid and the program will be locked and secure when you (or anyone else) next resume operation.

If you visit lots of websites every morning when you first boot up, you can also have KeePass run automatically when the current user logs in. On the 'lntegration' tab, simply click the box marked 'Run KeePass at Windows startup (current user)’. If you use this option, you will have to remember to have your USB memory stick inserted when you boot up the computer.

Description: After you set KeePass to run at boot, the master password window should appear

After you set KeePass to run at boot, the master password window should appear

Many of the other options might seem as if they’ve been included simply because they're possible, but lots of them are actually very useful. One such option is on the Interface tab. Clicking 'Drop to background after copying data to the clipboard' brings the window behind KeePass to the front. If this is your web browser, it's a convenient way of grabbing focus to paste a username or password into a website's login page.

So, KeePass can securely look after all your passwords, thereby requiring you to remember just one. It's easier to change just one password on a regular basis rather than needing to change perhaps several dozen, but change it regularly you must. In fact, you should do it every few weeks or so. It’s easy enough to by going to File > Change master key. As long as you remember to take your USB memory stick with you, you will never forget the passwords to your accounts no matter where you are and no matter how many times you change their individual passwords.

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