Review: Password Officer Deluxe

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All your personal needs for sign-on can be secured and at the same time simplified by Password Officer Deluxe. This suite is essentially a repository for an individual's passwords so that he or she doesn't have to record them, but it also manages them in several important respects that make the sign-on process to any system, program, database, web site or other resource easier and safer.

All your personal needs for sign-on can be secured and at the same time simplified by Password Officer Deluxe. This suite is essentially a repository for an individual's passwords so that he or she doesn't have to record them, but it also manages them in several important respects that make the sign-on process to any system, program, database, web site or other resource easier and safer.

For each user a unique file is maintained, comprising a list of all passwords and sign-ons assigned to that user. In addition Password Officer Deluxe provides an 'intelligent' method of describing a sign-on process so that it becomes almost automatic. Interestingly the sign-on process can be almost any challenge/response sequence, including HTML- entry forms, and the entry can be done flawlessly and speedily. Password Officer normally sits resident in Windows memory (all the main versions of Windows are supported).

An effective way to use this clever program is to maintain the single user's password file on a removable disk - perhaps with the program alongside it. Then the user can journey anywhere and make use of Password Officer Deluxe simply by inserting the ZIP drive (or other removable disk) and then loading the program, with no installation procedure required.

An even more secure way of employing Password Officer is to use it in conjunction with a smartcard. In effect, the list of that user's sign-on sequences is not kept on the system, but in the memory of the smartcard. What the user does is insert the card into a reader and then supply a password that unlocks access to this list. Even if somebody knew the user's password, it would be useless without the smartcard itself. Similarly if the card has been stolen, it cannot be put into action without the unlocking password (which should be known only to the card's real owner).

Additionally, this software features optional methods for generating new passwords secure from a hacker's 'dictionary' attack, and reinforces good habits such as revising passwords periodically.

The user puts Password Officer Deluxe into operation by loading the program, or otherwise by expanding it from its icon in the system tray. The compact front page leaves most of the screen still visible behind it, which may be important before and during sign-on procedures. A more expanded view of the list is available by a mouse click on a button marked 'Details.'

Each password list relates to a particular user, though it may contain details that pertain to several different resources. A list exists as a file, condensed and then encrypted by a powerful algorithm. This file can be kept centrally on the system's disk, or more conveniently in the memory of the smartcard owned by the user. In the latter case there is no physical record of any passwords left on the system.

You can launch Password Officer Deluxe from its System Tray icon and select one of the sign-on sequences for automatic submission to the form currently on the screen. Within the sequence definition you can identify a particular page, so that if it is not the one active currently, a new Internet Explorer window will be opened and the desired page called. Clicking on an item in Favorites will not only call that page, but perform the sign-on sequence automatically, if desired.

Featured within the package are tools to organize password sequences into groups and sub-groups. Editing is skillfully implemented so that format changes to sign-in procedures at a web site can often be accommodated with a few keystrokes.

The team that designed this program have thought long and hard about the various ways password-type access is used, and have built in methods to approximate them so that 'logging in' becomes easy, and effectively automatic. Web-based sign-on can be manually assisted, with the user choosing the elements to be entered on the screen by picking them from the list, or fully automated, with the sign-on sequence sent automatically as soon as the designated window appears. Password Officer Deluxe handles automated opening of encrypted archives by 'co-operating' with WinZip, interactively asking the user to supply the key by choice from the list.

It should be of more than passing interest to consider that the package provides a sound means of creating sequences as macros to automate many repetitive tasks, especially filling in web-based forms with names and addresses.

There is an excellent, clear user's guide in PDF format, but online help within the program itself is so scant as to be nonexistent. This unfortunate omission is, on the other hand, countered by a very simple crisp operation and a good wizard you can use optionally to help you set up a working sequence.

For:

When used with a smartcard Password Officer Deluxe affords top security, storing passwords on the card itself. It performs a wide variety of password management services.


Against:

Essentially suffers the same problem as single sign-on strategies: c all your eggs in one security basket. Strict management of token (smartcard) ownership must be stressed.


Verdict:

A neat, well-crafted suite offering a high level of security over a person's passwords

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