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A master password is a single password or passphrase that is used as a “master key” to gain access to multiple accounts or systems. Master passwords are usually associated with password management solutions.
In the context of password managers, a master password is used to encrypt and protect a database or vault that stores all the user's other passwords, passkeys and data. Instead of remembering multiple complex passwords for different accounts, the user only needs to remember their master password to access and retrieve all of their stored passwords.
Master passwords can also be used to encrypt and protect sensitive data housed in encrypted storage, such as encrypted disk volumes, archives or encrypted files. When accessing the encrypted data, the user must provide the correct master password to decrypt and unlock the content. This ensures that the data remains secure even if it falls into unauthorised hands.
In both cases, the master password serves as a means of authentication and encryption key to protect access to sensitive information. It is crucial that end users choose a strong and unique, but memorable master password, and take appropriate measures to safeguard it.
Here are some tips for creating a good master password:
Uniqueness: Never reuse any passwords, especially not your master password. When threat actors compromise a working password, they will try using it everywhere: shopping sites, bank account portals, gaming sites, etc.
Complexity: For maximum security, use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters (such as !, @, #, etc.). The more complex the password, the more difficult it is to crack.
No personal information: Don’t use personal details like your name, birthdate, pet's name, spouse’s birthdate or references to your hobbies. Threat actors scrape this kind of data from social media profiles to help them guess passwords.
Avoid dictionary words: Passwords that use dictionary words, as opposed to random strings of characters, are much easier for cybercriminals to crack.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Enable two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. This way, even if someone manages to compromise your master password, they won’t be able to use it without the second authentication factor.
If you’re using a password manager, your master password is the only password you’ll ever have to remember. However, as discussed above, it's important that the password be long, unique, complex and memorable.
The best way to create a password that fits all three of these requirements is to compose a sentence that you will remember, then create a password utilising the first letter of each word, along with any numbers and special characters in the sentence. This is best illustrated by this example:
Create a sentence you can easily remember, such as “In 2008, I lived at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104.”
Take the first letter of each word, and every number, from the sentence: “In 2008, I lived at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87104.”
This creates the password “I2008Ila308NALANM87104.” — which is very strong, but easy to remember and nearly impossible for anyone else to guess.
As long as your master password is strong and unique, there’s no reason to change it unless you have reason to believe it’s been compromised. Never share your master password with anyone, not even family members.
Instead, use a password manager like Keeper, which has an Emergency Access feature that gives trusted contacts access to your Keeper Vault in the event of an emergency – without compromising your master password. You can designate up to five emergency contacts and decide how much time should pass before their access is granted.