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Password managers are not just for passwords

Password managers are not just for passwords

password management
Securely store your password and personal data

There’s no doubt that LastPass has saved me a lot of time and headaches – by remembering and filling passwords for me. But what many people do not realise is that password managers like LastPass or Dashlane can be used for a lot more than just passwords.

There is lots of information besides passwords that most people need to access and use in their day-to-day life, online and offline. Whether you are booking your next family holiday, submitting forms online, or filling out a job application, there are all sorts of details that you need to have on hand, sometimes when you least expect it.  

I will focus on LastPass in this article simple this is the password manager I use. There are however many other options available.

Why store more than passwords in LastPass? 

With templates for many different types of information, LastPass is the perfect place for me to store all those other details. Rather than rifling through stacks of papers or worrying about losing or damaging important documents when I carry them in my bag, I can keep secure, digital records that go everywhere with me! 

A few reasons I store digital records in LastPass:  

  • No matter where I am or what device I’m using – from a computer to my laptop, tablet, or Android phone – I know I can always log in to LastPass to access information 
  • Sensitive details are encrypted, so I know they’re safe 
  • Even if I don’t have WiFi or a data connection, I can log in to LastPass offline and view the data I need  
  • Because we both use LastPass, I can share everything with my wife in a Shared Folder so we both can access and use the stored records 

What items to store in your vault 

When it comes to organizing your important information, here’s what I recommend storing in LastPass for extra convenience

Passports 

If you’re planning a trip, especially internationally, you’ll likely be asked for your passport information. Rather than searching through a file cabinet or stack of papers, having a digital record of it ensures you can quickly look up or copy-paste the details you need. 

It is also useful to have a record of this information just in case you lose your passports.

In LastPass, use the “Passport” option to store each family member’s passport. You can even use upload a photocopy or picture of the passport as an “attachment” to the note. 

Driver’s License 

You may carry your driver’s license in your wallet, but there are other times besides driving where you may need to look up your license number. Filling out job applications, applying to rent an apartment, booking flights, or renting a car are all situations where your driver’s license may be requested. A quick search in the vault for your license ID is much more convenient. 

In LastPass, use the “Driver’s License” option to store each family member’s license information. Again, you can upload a photocopy or picture of the license to the note,  

Payment Cards 

If you’re like me, you probably do more shopping online than you do in real life. When using a card for payment, every purchase requires entering your credit card and billing address. With those details saved in LastPass, it’s just a few clicks to complete the checkout process.  

In LastPass, use the “Payment Card” option to store all debit cards or credit cards.  

Social Security, NHS and other Numbers 

It’s not often you’ll need to use your Social Security, NHS or national insurance number, but having it stored for every member of the family makes it easier on the rare occasions it does come up.

I have my own NI number memorized, of course, but haven’t memorized the numbers for my other family members and I have no idea what my NHS or driving license number are. When I need to reference it for signing into a financial account or filling out a form, it’s so much easier to look it up in LastPass than to try calling my wife or go hunting in our paper files. 

In LastPass, you can use the “Social Security Number” option to store each family member’s SSN. 

For other specific ID’s that do not have their own record type, I recommend using the custom template option to create a card to hold all desired ID details each person. I personally have a single custom type to hold ALL ID’s on a single card.

Insurance Cards 

Though you may carry your medical, dental, and other insurance cards in your wallet, there may be other times when a digital record is handy. Having a record in LastPass makes it easier to copy-paste the ID number and other details if it’s requested on any forms. 

In LastPass, use the “Health Insurance” option to store details on your insurance cards. 

Using LastPass as a Convenient Vault for Everything Else 

If you have other family members – or even roommates or friends – who may need access to those records, too, you can share them via LastPass. In LastPass Families, a Shared Folder is a convenient way to share many records with others. 

Of course, the list above is just a small sample of the types of information you can – and should! – store in LastPass for added convenience. Other pieces of information you may want to add to LastPass include: addresses (think billing and shipping), WiFi passwords, bank accounts, membership numbers, security questions and answers, prescriptions, and information for computers and important devices.  

Your LastPass vault is the perfect place to store anything you may need to look up or want to ensure you have a secure digital record of. Set aside some time to add these important details to LastPass for added convenience and peace of mind going forward. 

Other Solutions

Lastpass is great for storing the things mentioned above but it is not the best tool for all your digital storage needs though.

For digital storage of receipts, and asset management, including my home contents, I use Evernote.

For general document storage, I use OneDrive, which is easily accessible via one drive and the one drive app for Android has a handy document scanner too.

Google Find My Device not working

Google Find My Device not working

Ever since Google updated its “find my device” page for Android a couple of years ago, it has not been working for us.

We would still get the old version of the page with a message saying “This page cannot load Google maps correctly”.

Google Find My Device not working 1
Google find my device page

Clicking on the “try the new and updated find my device” link, would just redirect back to this same page.

The issue only affected my g suite account but not my regular, free, gmail account.

I tried contacting Google support back when I first noticed the issue but did not get anywhere since this is not a supported service.

Today I thought I would give it another try, and this time I got through to an agent more willing to help, and finally, we solved the mystery.

In your Google g suite admin you need to enable the “user device wipe on android” option.

Google Find My Device not working 2

This can be found under Device Management -> Android Settings -> General settings.

Check this box and click save, and you should now be able to access the new “find my device” page.

This is obviously a rather cryptic setting, and there is no logical reason why not enabling this option should just keep redirecting you to the old and broken find my device page. However the Google support agent did say it was “intended behaviour”.

BitDefender Parental Controls Review

BitDefender Parental Controls Review

BitDefender parental controls is useless

I have been using BitDefender Total Security for some years now and as a cybersecurity, anti-malware solution it is very good and I recommend it to all my clients. In fact, it is generally considered the #1 solution is all AV tests I have seen.

Sadly the same cannot be said for the parental control features they shoehorned into the product a few years ago. In fact, it is not actually part of the product, it is a completely separate installation that you have to initiate via the BitDefender Central portal.

I have tried out the parental control features multiple times since they were first released, on all my kids’ devices (4 pc’s, tablets and mobile phones), and have always had nothing but problems. I could never rely on it, so have always used solutions and have now given up it all together.

The Issues with BitDefender Parental Controls

BitDefender Parental Controls Review 3
Install Parental Controls

I have used the app on Windows PC’s, Android devices and an iPhone 6. On the iPhone the app does virtually nothing at almost all of the features are not supported on iPhones.

Getting it to actually install and activate in the first place might be the first challenge. You choose the “install parental control” option from the portal, and it will often do nothing or will say it is installed when it isn’t.

Quite often you will need to manually install the parental control app, completely reinstall BitDefender and remove/add your child from the portal. This process will be required every time the parental controls stop working too.

When you do manage to get the parental controls installed, good luck with getting/keeping it working. It will randomly stop working with no explanation and no warning, if you check under devices it will often say “disconnected”.

Actually getting the individual features working in the first place is also very hit and miss.

BitDefender Parental Controls Review 4
Activity reports do not work

So far, I have not seen the activity report actually work properly at all. It either reports completely incorrect activity or no activity at all.

The website allow/block list is completely arbitrary and unreliable. Sometimes it will block sites which should not be blocked, sometimes it will allow sites which should be blocked.

Same with the screentime, it is completely unreliable. It will either not work at all or will ignore your settings and just block or allow access arbitrarily.

Child location tracking is completely useless. It does not update reliably if at all, and if it does have a location, you have no idea how recent it is. You could be looking at a location from hours ago, days ago or even weeks ago.

Social activity monitoring, more of the same and completely useless. The only social network it seems to support is Facebook, and this requires a Facebook app to be installed in their Facebook account, which the child can easily remove.

BD support have now told me (presumably as a result of seeing this post) that social media monitoring requires another premium subscription, which they have never mentioned previously and is not mentioned anywhere in the app itself.

Anisoara Stefan
Technical Support Engineer 

I have seen no evidence of any monitoring for twitter, Instagram, snapchat, whatsapp or any of the other apps that kids are using.

Any change you make to the parental controls via the web-based portal, requires the child’s device to be rebooted before it takes effect. This is not a bug according to BitDefender support, it is intended behaviour.

This makes the whole remote management via the portal completely pointless, you may as well go back to making changes directly on the device since you are going to need access to it anyway.

BitDefender support is terrible

The most frustrating part is when you have to contact BitDefender support. this has to be initiated via the live chat, and when they cannot solve the problem (which is 99.9% of the time) they then escalate it and open a ticket.

You will always have to chase them for days, weeks or even months for replies via email.

The support team will constantly contradict each other. E.G. when I complained that changes I made were having no effect unless I rebooted, I was explicitly told by multiple agents that a reboot is indeed required after any changes are made, and that this is intended behaviour. I then received the following contradicting response this week.

Settings are implemented without rebooting the device. Parental Control updates at an interval of about 20 minutes, however, if the device is rebooted the settings are implemented immediately. This is so that the device does not keep pulling updates constantly every minute having to cause issues to the performance of the device.

Anisoara Stefan
Technical Support Engineer 

The live chat agents are generally not very helpful and have no idea how the parental controls work at all and the answers you get are equally as repetitive and useless. E.G.

  • it is a problem with the version of BitDefender you are using, please update. Which of course never helps.
  • you need to install Bitdefender first.
    This is especially moronic, as If you did not have Bitdefender installed on the device, then the device would not be showing in the portal for you to install parental controls onto in the first place.
  • You need to remove your child profile and re-add it
  • You need to reinstall BitDefender

Bizarrely they do not think this is an issue how often you need to delete your child profiles and reinstall the app.

Summary

Stay away.

I cannot recommend BitDefender parent controls at all. It does not do what it claims and is completely unreliable. I think it should be illegal for any company to claim their app will protect your kids when they are this useless and unreliable. There really needs to be some regulations on this type of app.

Google discriminates against small businesses

Google discriminates against small businesses

Google discriminates against small businesses 5
Does google live up to it’s own motto “Don’t be Evil”

Part of getting your business seen online is SEO, and an important part of this is getting your business registered with Google my business and Google maps.

Not only have I had to do this for my own business and my wife’s business but it is a service I provide to clients. When it works, this is a simple process, which involves Google sending a postcard to the business address with a code on it, which you then use to verify the business address.

However, sometimes the postcard doesn’t turn up, or some miscreant might report your listing and claim it is fraudulent or misleading and gets it suspended for review, at which point you have to contact Google my business support and request manual verification, which is where things get ridiculous.

You would be quite right to think, why on earth would Google discriminate against small businesses, this makes no sense and completely contradicts the whole purpose of Google my business.

Yet I have had this issue myself a few times now, and most recently when I changed my own listing to add my virtual office address.

According to Harisha at Google my business support, in order to pass the manual verification, every business must provide photos of their premises, must have their own dedicated entrance which is not shared with other businesses and must show signage with the company name in front of the building, WTF?

Google discriminates against small businesses 6

These requirements are clearly unfair, unethical and discriminate against every small to medium businesses in the world that uses shared/managed office spaces, people who work from home (including disabled people) or have virtual offices.

There are 125 million formal micro, small and midsize businesses in the world, including 89 million in emerging markets. How many of those do Google think have their own building, with their own entrance and signage?

What makes this even more illogical is how disparate this is from the automated postcard method. As long as you can receive that postcard with the verification code on it, then no other evidence is required, your office could literally be in your garden shed.

This means that most of the businesses already listed on Google (using the postcard method) do not meet these supposed requirements either, which I couldn’t actually find any mention of on the Google my business eligibility guidelines by the way.

Quite ironically, as I pointed out to Harisha, this also includes all the other business that reside at the same managed offices as myself.

So what’s the solution?

In the case of the postcard not turning up, I suggest trying a few more times before giving up. In my most recent attempt, I had to request the card 5 times before it finally arrived (thankfully bypassing this issue).

If you just cannot get that card or have your listing suspended for some other reason, and really have no other choice other than to comply with Google’s unfair demands, then Photoshop is your friend (nudge nudge, wink wink).

If you do not have the skills to manipulate images yourself, just pop along to fiverr.com and you will find someone willing to do some image manipulation for $20 or less 🙂

Free content filtering for your kids and family

Free content filtering for your kids and family

Free content filtering for your kids and family 7

I have been on a mission for quite a long time now to find a reliable parental control solution and content filtering solution and created a detailed post on the subject a few years ago.

I have tried all kinds of software, most of which has been lacklustre or simply unreliable as it will randomly stop working (Microsoft Family Safety, Bitdefender Parental Controls) or simply doesn’t do what it claims and gives you a false sense of security (Qustodio).

Avoid iPhones

Many parents cannot afford to pay for software for all their devices as it is, and Apple has now made this an even more difficult solution for parents by blocking all 3rd party software vendors from using parental controls on iPhones and iPads or by crippling their software and making it useless.

So if you are thinking of buying your child an iPhone or iPad, I would suggest you consider an Android device instead if you want any kind of parental control.

DNS Filtering

Lately, I have been trying out a number of DNS filtering services and I believe I have finally found one that not only works, but is also FREE, at least for the basic service. It is called CleanBrowsing DNS.

How DNS works
How DNS Works

What this basically does is that it takes you DNS requests and instead of just return the IP address to your device as normal DNS would, it will process the request itself and returns the website content with any filtering applied.

So it will either completely block any website on the not allowed list, or will enforce the SAFE SEARCH mode on sites like youtube and google, thus overriding local settings on your devices.

Using DNS filtering is a simple case of changing the DNS servers on your broadband router admin, which will affect every device in your house that is using WIFI or connected to the router via cable.

If you have older kids with mobile phones, then you would also need to apply the cleanbrowsing DNS settings to their phones directly, otherwise, it would have no effect when they are connected to the mobile network.

You can find various setup guides over on the CleanBrowsing website for most devices.

Other Considerations

Please bear in mind that DNS filtering is very easy to bypass for any kids that are quite computer literate or even just know how to use google to search for a workaround.

So for older kids, you will need to have some parental control software on their devices in order to stop them changing the DNS settings, and be sure to check for yourself that it cannot be changed. I recommend MMGuardian.

On Windows computers/laptops, you simply need to make sure that your kids are not administrators, and only standard users, then they will not be able to change network or DNS settings. You should make yourself the only administrator.

The free version of CleanBrowsing will not block social media sites. If you want to do this, then you will need to purchase the paid plan so that you can add your own filters to block those sites or others which are not blocked by default, you can also create separate profiles for each child if required.

If you have set the DNS filtering at router level and want to bypass the DNS filtering on your own devices, then simply set different dns servers on those devices. I recommend using CloudFlare DNS rather than your ISP.