A Comparative Usability Evaluation of Traditional Password Managers

  • Ambarish Karole
  • Nitesh Saxena
  • Nicolas Christin
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 6829)


Proposed in response to the growing number of passwords users have to memorize, password managers allow to store one’s credentials, either on a third-party server (online password manager), or on a portable device (portable password manager) such as a mobile phone or a USB key. In this paper, we present a comparative usability study of three popular password managers: an online manager (LastPass), a phone manager (KeePassMobile) and a USB manager (Roboform2Go). Our study provides valuable insights on average users’ perception of security and usability of the three password management approaches. We find, contrary to our intuition, that users overall prefer the two portable managers over the online manager, despite the better usability of the latter. Also, surprisingly, our non-technical pool of users shows a strong inclination towards the phone manager. These findings can generally be credited to the fact that the users were not comfortable giving control of their passwords to an online entity and preferred to manage their passwords themselves on their own portable devices. Our results prompt the need for research on developing user-friendly and secure phone managers, owing to the ubiquity of mobile phones.


Mobile Phone Portable Device Remote Server Good Usability Usability Measure 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ambarish Karole
    • 1
  • Nitesh Saxena
    • 1
  • Nicolas Christin
    • 2
  1. 1.Polytechnic Institute of New York UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Carnegie Mellon UniversityUSA

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