Best Chrome Password Managers

If you browse the Internet and access online accounts using credentials stored in the Chrome browser, you might wonder why anybody might publish an article about the best Chrome password managers. The answer is straightforward. The Chrome password manager has its limitations and, while these limitations may not matter to some Chrome users, they matter to others.

The Chrome password manager (more often called the Google password manager) is a useful free tool for storing login credentials, credit card numbers, and addresses. When you visit a web site via the Chrome browser, if you have previously saved data in the Chrome password manager, your username and password is automatically filled in. And, if you want to buy something and have it sent to your home, the password manager can also auto-complete your payment details and address.

The convenience of the Chrome password manager doesn´t stop there. If you turn on cross-device synching, you can access all your login credentials, payment details, and addresses across all the devices on which you use the Chrome browser (PC, mobile, laptop, etc.). In addition, the password manager has multiple user-friendly features that help protect you online. Consequently, many users are satisfied with the protection offered by Chrome and are not looking for alternatives.

The Limitations of the Chrome Password Manager

While the Chrome password manager satisfies the requirements of many Chrome users, it has its limitations. The password manager only auto-completes login credentials for web-based accounts (i.e., not desktop apps), it only works on certain mobile apps, and it doesn´t sync with other browsers. Therefore, if you use a Windows PC and browse the Internet using Chrome, and have an iPhone on which you use Safari, your passwords won´t sync from your PC to iPhone.

Although it is possible to overcome the lack of cross-browser synchronization by downloading Chrome onto your iPhone or logging into from your iPhone to retrieve your login credentials, these may not be ideal solutions for many users. Furthermore, these solutions don´t overcome the other limitations of the Chrome browser nor resolve the issue that it is not possible to securely share passwords with a family member or colleague in the workplace.

However, possibly the most serious limitation of the Chrome password manager is that it doesn´t support automatic log out. This means that if an unauthorized third party accesses your PC or mobile and you are still logged into Chrome (which is different from being logged into a Google account), the third party has access to all your credentials and your browsing history to see what online accounts you use. Basically, it´s an invitation for a bad actor to access all your online accounts.

Vault-Based Alternatives to Chrome

Because of the limitations of the Chrome password manager – and other “built-in” password managers such as iCloud Keychain – some people choose to use “vault-based” password managers.  These are most often web-based solutions that give users a secure vault in which to store login credentials, payments details, and addresses with a choice of accessibility options including any web browser, a selection of browser extensions, mobile apps, and desktop apps.

As vault-based password managers have cross-platform synchronization and accessibility, users of these password managers can access login credentials, etc. from any location at any time from any device. Many also provide read-only offline accessibility via mobile and desktop apps. Vault-based password managers can be configured to “timeout” after a period of inactivity, and it is possible to share passwords securely between family members and colleagues.

Businesses who subscribe to a vault-based password manager can assign one vault per employee. This facilitates the application of organization-wide password policies to make the business more resilient against password-related cyberattacks. It also facilitates the grouping of employees into teams, the sharing of credentials among teams, and integration of the password manager with directory services for ease of user onboarding, administration, and offboarding.

The Best Chrome Password Managers

Not all vault-based password managers have the same capabilities, and while there may be little to choose between the “freemium” plans for personal users, businesses users may need to be a little more selective. Some alternatives to the Chrome password manager (i.e., 1Password) don´t support remote emergency access in the event an employee is unavailable, while others (i.e., LastPass) don´t provide vaults for employees to keep personal credentials separate from corporate credentials.

Most of the remaining alternative password managers for Chrome provide reports alerting users to weak, re-used, and compromised passwords. However, the Bitwarden password manager goes way further – alerting users to any credentials (passwords, email addresses, credit card details, etc.), that have been extracted in a data breach and published publicly. Bitwarden also alerts users to accounts with inactive 2FA, and when login credentials have been created for unsecured websites.

When you compare the prices of alternative password managers for Chrome, several keep their enterprise prices hidden (i.e., Keeper, 1Password, and NordPass), or advertise competitive prices without telling you the cost of basic security add-ons (i.e., LastPass). Of those that do list their prices for fully-feature enterprise password managers, Bitwarden ($5 per user per month as of August 2021) is more price competitive than LogMeOnce ($7/month) or Dashlane ($8/month).

Bitwarden also has the advantage of being built on open-source software. This means its code is reviewed by “bug bounty hunters” for security vulnerabilities, and any bugs that are found are quickly resolved. While this doesn´t guarantee Bitwarden is any more secure than LogMeOnce or Dashlane (or any other password manager built on proprietary software), many IT experts agree that source-code transparency is an absolute requirement for security solutions such as password managers.

Author: Maria Perez