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FLOSS Friday

October 23rd, 2009

Welcome to the first post for FLOSS Friday.  FLOSS stands for Free,  Libre,  and Open Source Software.  Every Friday, I plan to discuss some software, site, or tool that is either free to the ECU community because of purchased licenses, because a commercial vendor doesn’t require payment, or is a project of the  Open Source / Free Software community.

For our first offering, I present to you KeePass

KeePass is a password organizer/storage/generator.  It has a huge number of features, and a huge number of plugins contributed.  At its most basic, it allows you to create entries with user names, passwords, labels, and (optionally) URLs so you don’t have to remember.  The KeePass file you create has a single password that you can then use to access all the passwords it contains.  Once you have an entry in KeePass, you can have it automatically paste your password to the clipboard, which means you can then paste that password into whatever application/site/machine you are currently trying to access.

KeePass lets you have folders for entries, and in fact comes with a large default set of folders for things like “Home Banking”, “Network”, and so forth.  These are completely at your control, and can be deleted, renamed, or used as-is.  Each entry and folder also has an associated icon within the application, so you have a lovely visual clue about what you’re looking at.  For instance, you can use a globe for web sites, a penguin for your Linux machines, and a Windows logo for your Windows machines.  The application comes with an extensive set of icons for this purpose.

To give you a sense of the application, check out this screenshot:

KeePass Main Screen

KeePass Main Screen

And here’s an entry:

KeePass Entry Editor

KeePass Entry Editor

Besides auto-pasting passwords (and user names), you can also have it open your default browser with the URL that you’ve configured in the entry.  Additional plugins are available to not only go to the URL, but enter your user name and password.

Whenever you’re talking about passwords, the issue of security is a big deal.  You don’t want to entrust your credentials to an application that will let someone else readily read the file.  Since I’m not an encryption expert, I’ll defer to the KeePass security document to explain why what they’re doing is a Good Thing ™.  As an example use, KeePass files can be sent as e-mail attachments.  If you then call the person to tell them the KeePass file password (NEVER SEND PASSWORDS VIA E-MAIL WITHOUT ENCRYPTION) you can give them a collection of passwords they might need in one handy organized file.

As an added security feature, KeePass will let you generate new passwords, with many features to restrict how they are generated (but still be secure).  Believe me, if you use a KeePass generated password with the default settings, nobody is going to guess it.  Since you can’t remember them, it’s a good idea to make sure you never forget your KeePass file’s main password.  If you do, then it’s game over.  There is no back door.  Unless you have a Beowulf Cluster of the world’s best super computers (plus a few hundred years), you’re not getting back in.

KeePass is available for a huge number of platforms, including:

  • Microsoft Windows
  • Apple Mac OS X
  • Pocket PC / Smart Devices
  • Linux
  • iPhone / iPod Touch
  • Blackberry
  • Android

See the offerings at the KeePass Downloads Page.

Even better for you Windows users, you can get Portable KeePass in PortableApps format so you can run the program without installing straight from a USB stick.  I’m sure I’ll be revisiting why PortableApps are the Best Thing Ever in another post.

There you have it.  A small, fast, safe, simple tool to manage your passwords.  I’m a big fan.

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