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Password management is often undertaken through the use of a password manager, a software utility that assists in generating and retrieving complex passwords, generally storing them in an encrypted database. Some password managers will calculate strong passwords randomly, or on-demand.

Password managers may blur the lines between system software and application software but, for the sake of categorization, any software designed to generate or help manage computer passwords will be appropriate for this category.

Most often, password managers are installed software applications, although password management may also be built into the operating system. As much of our computing is stored in the cloud today, password managers may also be online services that are accessed through web portals. The task may also be performed through locally accessed hardware devices that serve as keys.

Commonly, password managers are in the form of applications stored on the user's personal computer, smartphone, or mobile device. These applications can be offline, its database stored independently and locally on the same device as the password manager, or it might offer or even require a cloud-based approach, in which the password database is independent of the file hosting service, stored remotely, but handled through software that is installed on the user's computer. Some offline password managers don't require Internet permission, preventing leakage of data due to the network.

Fully web-based password management is a site-based version of the traditional desktop-based password manager. An advantage of an online password manager is that it is independent of any particular computer or device, as they can generally be accessed through any computer with a web browser and Internet connection, as there is no need to install software. There is also less risk of losing passwords due to theft or damage to a specific computer device, although the same risk may exist for the server used to store the passwords, although a web-based password management company might be more likely to ensure that backups are done regularly. A possible disadvantage is that the user would need to trust a remote hosting site and keylogger, particularly given the prevalence of cyberattacks.

Hardware solutions may use security tokens, in which a locally-accessible hardware device, such as a smart card or secure USB flash device, is used to authenticate a user in lieu of - or in addition to - a traditional text-based password. Data stored in the token is usually encrypted to prevent unauthorized reading of the information stored there. Token services may also include software installed on the PC, as well as the hardware, and drivers used to properly read and decode the data.

Many computer operating systems today include user authentication systems that use facial recognition or fingerprint identification, and this form of system software would be appropriate here, as well. Whatever the form it takes, any software used to manage passwords, or to authenticate users, may be included here.



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