Password managers are essential tools to stay safe on the Internet. Most offer a lot more than just saving passwords in a secure database. My personal favorite KeePass for instance can generate secure passwords, export or import some or all into various other formats, integrate with web browsers to make the login more comfortable or save form and other important information safely as well.
Symantec has recently launched Norton Identity Safe, a password manager for Windows PCs as well as Android and Apple iOS mobile devices. The program ships with browser extensions for all five popular browsers (Opera, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari).
Norton Internet Security and Norton 360 users may already know the program as it is integrated into their applications. Everyone else can download a free copy of the password manager from the Norton website.
The program stores password information in the cloud like Last Pass, another password management service, does. When you compare the two services you will notice that Last Pass has an edge over Norton's tool, as it supports features like automatic form filling, a portable mode or 2-factor authentication. Some of those are on the other hand only available for Last Pass Premium account users who pay $12 per year for that service.
Norton's Identity Safe on the other hand ships with Norton Safe Web which informs you about unsafe websites that you are about to visit. Norton Safe web Life then again is available for free.
Here is a short table comparing core features of both products:
All Norton Identity Safe logins, notes and cards are saved with a master password that you need to create during setup. Norton requires you to use at least one upper and lower character, one number and one special char for the master passwords.
Toolbars are installed in all supported browsers automatically during installation, with no option to block the installation in some browsers. The toolbar is unfortunately not compatible with all browser versions. It failed to install for instance in Firefox Aurora.
The toolbar displays a search form, Safe Web, Identity Safe and sharing options. The search links to a custom Norton search engine. The Identity Safe button in the toolbar appears to be the only option to control the password manager. I closed the toolbar in Chrome and could not get it to open up again as there were no options to do so.
The menu links to the Identity Safe homepage, settings, a log in list that is directly accessible from the menu and options to log out of the password manager.
The password manager interface displays the password strength of the selected password. Here it is also possible to define whether the password information should be filled out automatically when the page is visited, whether a prompt for the master password should be displayed before that's happening, and whether the program should you log in automatically if you select the login from the list.
The password manager works as expected most of the time. I had troubles getting it to work in Internet Explorer 9 though. The toolbar displayed fine in the browser, but new passwords and log ins were not recognized by the program.
Norton Identity Safe is an alternative to Last Pass, especially for users who want mobile access to their log in information. Most users will have troubles getting their stored passwords into the program in first place, which will keep many from using it (unless they use Internet Explorer for that).
The lack of browser selection during installation, missing form filling support, lack of frontend on the desktop and several bugs should keep most users from using it as their main password manager.
The Norton Identity Beta website offers no information on the future of the product. Will the final version remain free, or will it be turned into a commercial software that users have to pay for?
Have you tried Norton Identity Safe? If so, what's your impression?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.