What password manager for a family with privacy on the brain?
September 20, 2020 9:44 AM   Subscribe

A question asked a thousand times before, but, of course, we're snowflakes.

My wife and I are researching password managers to use together. Assume we're very highly technically capable and quite adept at online security. Yet for some reason this specific use case seems hard to find.

We are looking for a password manager that has the following features (assuming, of course, that the manager in question is already proven to be hardened and such).

- Will allow us to share passwords for the basic shared necessities (utilities, subscriptions, etc.)
- Lynchpin: Will allow shared access for personal accounts in case of emergency, but, will still keep very private accounts secure. So say, in an health issue or death, allow access to some accounts, but not all of them? So, if I die, they can have access to some private accounts like my health insurance or banking, but, say, the Google account is still locked out (neither one of us want the temptation to delve into each other's email accounts in the case of our demise). It seems that both 1Password and Lastpass both have emergency protocols, but those protocols seems to open all accounts. We're hoping for one that lets us keep at least some private, even in an emergency.
- For the rule of threes, also runs on every normal OS on all normal devices.

If the answer is: Use either one and keep your private accounts out of the manager, that's fine. Just hoping there's something I'm not seeing.

Money is an object, but not the object. Assume for assuming sakes that we're willing to pay for the most expensive password manager if it gives us what we want.

(We do not have kids, and that's not something on the immediate horizon.)
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I asked something not entirely unlike this some time back (or, what I'm asking for is very similar to part of what you're asking for), and my best solution would be three separate, passphrase-accessed databases, on pretty much any implementation (LastPass, KeePass, whatever). You also need a public-private key pair in which neither of you has seen the private key, which is reposed either in a place or with a person that you can't easily access except in great need. Then you select the three database passphrases: you determine yours and don't tell her, she determines hers and doesn't tell you, collectively you determine a third. Then she encrypts her passphrase with the aforementioned public key (using whatever asymmetric encryption techniqu and software you like) and gives it to you, which you them put in your database; likewise you encrypt your passphrase and she puts it into her database.

So under these circumstances, each of you can access your and the common database with the passphrases you know, but you can't access the third, because you have only an encrypted version of its passphrase. However, with the help of the private key (sequestered as mentioned above), you can, by using the private key to decrypt that passphrase, access each other's databases. Whoever you entrust with the private key has nothing of much value, because the only two pieces of information it decrypts are safely ensconced in your databases.
posted by jackbishop at 10:08 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Oops, I didn't see the very private account requirement; that complicates matters up to needing five different databases, two of which use passphrases you don't share with each other at all.
posted by jackbishop at 10:14 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

Could you solve this by each creating 2 separate accounts on a family plan? 1Password family plans allow up to 5 users at base cost, which would be enough for this use case. You'd each create one account for your standard items, plus one account for your extra-personal items. 1Password allows you to create a shared space that both your standard accounts can access, for e.g. shared utilities. You'd save the retrieval documentation for the standard accounts (but not the extra-personal ones) in an accessible place for emergencies.
posted by girlstyle at 10:25 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]

I suspect but am not certain (my wife is not ready for a password manager) that you could solve the level of access problem by setting up three vaults in 1P (shared/private/sensitive), with different access levels.
posted by wotsac at 10:30 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]

1Password works like this out of the box. You can have as many vaults as you would like, and each can have their own access schemes.
posted by rockindata at 10:48 AM on September 20 [5 favorites]

With these narrow requirements (no judgment) you should test run a few scenarios on different devices to make sure everything works as you expect it will.
posted by michaelh at 11:33 AM on September 20

It seems like each of you could have one "regular" account and one "sensitive" account. The "sensitive" account could share all its passwords with your "regular" account. But you would only set up the "in case of emergency" sharing on the regular account, not the sensitive account.

If you do this, though, be very sure that you have all the two-factor and reset stuff that you need. My husband and I both used Dashlane and had emergency sharing turned on for all our passwords. I still needed access to my husband's email to reset a few of his passwords that he hadn't updated in Dashlane for some reason and/or look for "you're using this account from a new computer, is this OK?" confirmation stuff. The password vault is a huge help but there are a lot of (necessary) things I wouldn't have been able to do without access to his email. Of course you could also have a dedicated email account that you use for non-sensitive password resets that isn't your main Google account - just this approach requires a certain amount of maintenance and you need to maintain the distinction both at the password manager and the email/reset level.
posted by mskyle at 11:36 AM on September 20

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