Online security tools: The holiday gift that shows you really care

In an era of conspicuous consumption, many folks have shifted from material gifts to offering experiences or digital goods. Here’s a digital gift suggestion: Give the gift of security. With free and inexpensive options that pay huge dividends to the recipient, you can be the savviest and most beloved person in the house.

Why give the gift of security? If a friend or relative uses two-factor authentication and a password manager, they dramatically reduce the odds of a hack or breach. Signing up for password-breach notifications and using password management lets them quickly change secrets for exposed accounts. In all, it can save your friends and family from a lot of grief from what seems like an inevitability these days.

Give a password management app or subscription

Database breaches of user accounts come at a terrifying pace these days. Billions of accounts across hundreds of major services have had their information leaked. Weak passwords and weak storage of password at those services have allowed malicious parties to crack them open, leading to a person’s account and password at one service used to break into accounts elsewhere.

The best current password advice is to create a unique, long password for every site and service you use, and rely on a password-management app to generate, store, and fill them in for you.

The best of these systems live in an ecosystem with native apps for mobile and desktop devices and a web app for access away from that hardware. I’ve used and recommended 1Password, and many clever people I know swear by LastPass.

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1Password has an ecosystem of apps, and a very affordable monthly subscription plan for families.

Between browser plug-ins in macOS and the new iOS 12 support for third-party password management directly in apps and Safari, your friends and family can generate new passwords and fill them in while rarely even needing to learn the complexity of the main apps if they choose not to.

Both products offer free trials, and LastPass has a free tier with minimal but useful features that includes native apps.

However, the sweetest deal for families are the aptly named family plans that both services offer. LastPass offers a 6-user family plan for $4 a month and 1Password’s deal is 5 users for $5 a month plus $1 a month for additional family members. (Plans are billed annually.) This includes some central management features, as well as password sharing among members.