What is a Password Manager?

A password manager is an application that lets individuals and businesses create, store, access, and manage all their credentials from a centralized place.

Passwords grow in number as the IT infrastructure of an organization grows. With each new service that the business opts for, and each new website or application that an individual signs up for, the number of credentials increases. With a plethora of passwords to store and maintain, a password manager helps users and organizations simplify their password management challenges. Password managers help IT admins securely store, share and manage passwords with centralized visibility and control.

What are the benefits of using a business password manager?

  • Password managers help organizations consolidate and synchronize passwords across all platforms, making it easy to log in wherever you are and on whatever device you use.
  • Password managers have provisions to share credentials securely amongst team members. It lets users access accounts without revealing the underlying credentials. A business password manager allows you to control who gets access to which credentials.
  • Password managers let you know if your users are using the same password across all their accounts and notify you if any of the passwords stored are weak and prone to attack. Also, they help rotate passwords frequently.
  • Password managers help encrypt passwords and restrict access to sensitive accounts and applications using multifactor authentication (MFA).
  • Some password managers provide advanced functionalities like offline backups and high availability, that prove useful during unanticipated events like server crashes or physical damage to hosted machines.

Purchasing a password manager is one of the most significant security investments that your organization can make to prevent cyberattacks. Consolidating credentials in a single repository, centralized visibility and accountability, password randomization, automated rotation, and role-based access control workflows help organizations shrink overall attack surface and thwart unauthorized access.

Why do businesses need password managers?

Cybersecurity can be an unnerving concept for organizations, especially for businesses that don’t have a well-established IT team. However, in today’s digital era, with the internet being the digital silk road for businesses to connect with their customers, hackers are always on the prowl, trying to make the most out of these online transactions. Enforcing simple, easy-to-implement security measures can significantly move the needle on a business’ overall cyber defense. For instance, deploying a password manager that seals gaps in password management, helps establish visibility and accountability, and enforcing credential security best practices can be a powerful first step that businesses can take in their cybersecurity journey. Some key capabilities of a business password manager are

  • Complete visibility
  • Secure password storing and sharing
  • Password policy
  • Dark Web Montoring
  • Role-based security
  • Easy user onboarding and offboarding

Complete visibility

Businesses in nascent stages of their growth do not have a dedicated IT team to oversee operations and enforce tight security policies. This leads to employees creating their own passwords on demand as and when required, which are most often strewn around once their purpose is complete. These scattered credentials create backdoors, increasing the number of potential entry points for hackers, thereby increasing the overall attack surface. A clear visibility of who has access to what resources is utmost important, when it comes to identifying and mitigating security risks.

To do so, you'll need robust, easy-to-use solutions that establish good visibility and control, thereby boosting your overall security. A password manager is one such efficient tool. It gives IT administrators complete insights into incoming access requests and what resources and systems are being accessed by organizational users and third-party vendors. It also helps establish accountability over password usage, audit all user activities, and thwart unauthorized access—from a single pane of glass, whether employees work onsite, remotely, or both.

Dark web monitoring

Cybercriminals often target Software as a Service (SaaS) developers and other third-party vendors to gain access to the credentials of their client's employees. A vulnerability somewhere downstream can result in a potential data breach upstream. Millions of such breached credentials are available on the dark web as a dump.

Hackers exploit this information to break into the organizational network, and gain access to sensitive assets. More often, a lot of these credentials are reused which results in malicious actors establishing a strong foothold, breaking into more resources, and expanding their access within the network.

With the dark web monitoring feature, password managers can help businesses achieve the following:

  • Scan the dark web
  • Notify if any of the passwords your users are using have been previously breached
  • Provide the list of compromised passwords and measures to replace them with strong and complex ones

Password policy

A lot of users continue to use weak passwords and reuse them across multiple platforms, which is a big threat to organizations. To assist companies in protecting their passwords from cyberattacks, regulatory agencies and security specialists have curated information security standards. Password security is at the core of all these guidelines. Implementing a strong password policy can effectively reduce the chance for cybercriminals to access your data. Password policies help specify password complexity rules, such as password length, accepted/denied characters, a password reset period, and more. Enforcing different password policies for every team in your organization is a security best practice. Password policies can be modified based on the sensitivity of the accounts handled and each team's requirements.

Secure storing and password sharing

Password managers serve as a repository to store not just passwords but also other sensitive data such as licenses, certificates, agreements, server credentials, private databases, and more.

The good thing is that you can share this information with others in your organization. Password sharing is essential to performing enterprise tasks, but employees need a secure means to share those passwords within their network. This is where password managers help.

Let’s assume that there is a common account that must be used by multiple teams in an organization. In that case, password managers let you share that account with other groups with different access levels. Business password managers also let users manage common folders for specific departments and project teams.

Role-based access control

Every employee should only have access to the credentials they need to perform their jobs. Granting them excess permissions to sensitive data could lead to credential misuse and an increased risk of compromise.

With a password management solution, businesses can adopt Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) which restricts users from having excessive access to resources. Users are provided with access to credentials based on their roles and responsibilities. Controlling network access is important especially when there are a lot of employees and third-party vendors. Companies that have enforced RBAC can better secure their sensitive data and internal systems.

Easy onboarding and offboarding

Onboarding new employees and provisioning access to accounts is seamless when the entire organization uses the same password manager, even if the whole or part of the team works remotely. With a password manager, provisioning access to the required IT assets can be easily set up, even when there are multiple employees joining at once.

Also, when an employee leaves the organization, access to various resources should be terminated and passwords need to be changed to prevent the ex-employee from logging in. Password managers give you visibility on the list of passwords accessed by the departing users and an automated mechanism to change those passwords.

What are the cyberattacks that password managers prevent?

Password attacks are one of the most common types of cyberattacks. A password attack happens when an unauthorized user tries to gain access to an account by attempting to guess the password. Password-related cyberattacks are of varied forms and grow in number by the day. Here are the most common types of password attacks that a password manager helps defend against.

Brute-force attacks

A brute-force password attack is an outdated method where cyber criminals use trial-and-error techniques to guess the login credentials, secret keys, and other vital data. Hackers employ powerful brute-force password-cracking tools and use them on diverse protocols like software, websites, etc., to crack passwords quickly. If someone has set an easily guessable, commonly used password, it will most likely be deciphered by the hackers in seconds.

Dictionary attacks

Dictionary attacks, a type of brute-force attack, rely on the human habit of using basic dictionary words as passwords. To find a user's password, the hacker attempts every word in a dictionary. Words that relate to your personal info such as your hometown, pet's name, and more are involved in complicated dictionary attacks.

Credential stuffing

If any organization has suffered a data breach in the past, there is a high chance for the breached credentials to be published on the dark web. Credential stuffing is a cyberattack in which cybercriminals use previously stolen credentials to access new accounts or services. This prevails because many people use the same password across different platforms. Hackers would try different combinations of existing usernames and passwords to gain access to new accounts and services.

Password spraying

Password spraying or a password spray attack is also a type of brute-force attack where the hacker tries logging in with the same password to many accounts on the same domain, and if that doesn't work, moves on to the next password. The strength of the user's passwords decides the success of this attack. For instance, if the password is as weak as '123456' or 'abc123', it is likely to be cracked.


Phishing attacks occur when a hacker sends you a deceiving link through email, message, or a website with the hopes of getting your personal information. The threat actor collects the data to hack into the user's account with the credentials entered.

Sometimes, it could even be a 'reset your password' link from a phony website or a malicious attachment through an email that impersonates a friend, co-worker, or senior executive in your organization.

Cybercriminals increasingly rely on automation tools to execute malicious activities because they see it as a way to conduct more successful data breaches and gain higher amounts of profit more quickly. Hackers keep evolving their methodologies and it is on the organizations to implement robust cybersecurity tools to defend themselves against these attacks.

Types of password management

Password management can be majorly classified into two types—personal and enterprise password managers. While personal password managers protect information associated with an individual, enterprise password managers aim to secure highly sensitive information and credentials that circulate within an organization.

Personal password management is the practice of storing personal information, such as email accounts, banking details, credit card numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, contact addresses, and more in a safe vault.

Millions of people use weak or easily guessable passwords to remember them for all their accounts. Families handle multiple shared accounts, from video streaming sites and shopping accounts to banking credentials.

A personal password manager allows individuals and families to properly organize and share their credentials within and easily manage all their important data from one safe place. While there are many paid password managers, some personal password managers are also free. People can try out several such versions and pick the one that best matches their purpose.

Enterprise password management is the practice of storing your company's accounts, passwords, and other important credentials in a centralized, secure vault.

One of the most serious threats to your IT security systems is unprotected sharing and misuse of privileged accounts. Various departments within an organization follow different, unsafe ways of storing credentials, such as in a spreadsheet or sticky notes. Enterprise password managers reduce the risks associated with compromised credentials by securely storing all the sensitive data in an encrypted vault and by preventing unauthorized access to privileged credentials.

Also, even for a small number of users, managing all their passwords manually is time-consuming and becomes tedious as the organization grows. Using a business password manager for teams seamlessly manages all the employees' credentials, automates password management operations, and lets them securely exchange passwords across the organization while maintaining total security. Typically, enterprise password managers are designed to manage credentials, track and audit important activities, and improve password security for large teams.

How does a password manager work?

A password manager secures data by letting you store and manage your credentials in a centralized vault. To protect all the data, password managers use an encryption, such as the AES-256-bit encryption. To access this encrypted database, you need an encryption key or a master password, which is usually held only by the application administrator. Password managers help automate password resets during instances of account lockout, eases password sharing among team members, and capture all password-related activities in audit trails. Also, password managers eliminate hardcoding through APIs. Hard coding is one of the unsafe programming practices for password storage. Exposure to a single hard-coded credential could put the entire organization at risk. An effective password management solution solves this with a set of secure APIs for application-to-application (A-to-A) and application-to-database (A-to-DB) password management.

A crucial cybersecurity tool

A password manager is not the only solution for preventing cyberattacks. But, when coupled with other security software and controls, it becomes an impenetrable line of defense. Password managers move organizations from a completely unsafe platform to a stable one by significantly reducing the attack surface. Password managers protect your passwords in a variety of ways. Businesses have so much sensitive data to protect, and they need foolproof encryption to safeguard it. Business password managers with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit, military-grade encryption store all the credentials in an encrypted form, making it highly impossible to crack, even if it's stored in the cloud.

Many password managers have Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and additional biometric security measures such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition. This eliminates the need to enter the encryption key or the master password every time and adds extra layers of security, making your credentials safe.

Password managers alert you to change your passwords regularly and give periodic notifications on password expiration. Most password managers perform a strength assessment where each password is given a strength score based on password complexity. Also, some password managers have the feature to examine the dark web to see if any of your passwords have been breached already. The passwords can be masked and revealed according to user roles. Moreover, most password managers work on zero-knowledge principle, that is, neither the software creator nor anybody else have any knowledge of the data stored, proving to be a safe choice.

Types of password managers

Password managers are of different types. Businesses or individuals opt for the ones that best suit their needs. The most common types of password managers used in business domains are self-hosted or on-premise password managers and cloud-based password managers.

Self-hosted/On-premise password managers:

Password managers of this kind are chosen mainly by enterprises. Desktop-based password managers allow you to store passwords locally in your environment, on a laptop or desktop, within an encrypted vault. Organizations with an intent to secure their infrastructure i.e., their resources, services, and finances, are generally reluctant towards exposing their internal systems on the internet. Such businesses opt for an on-premise solution. On-prem password managers need to be installed on a central server within the organization and act as a standalone application over which you can have complete control. All data can be securely stored and managed in-house. Users can choose to access their credentials even when they are offline in an on-prem solution.

Cloud password managers:

Cloud-based password managers allow you to store your passwords on the cloud, i.e., service provider's network. Your service provider takes the sole liability for safeguarding all your credentials. The key advantage of cloud-based password managers is that you can use your password manager from anywhere as long as you have an active internet connection. This makes it an appealing choice for both individuals and businesses.

PAM vs. Enterprise password manager

Privileged Access Management (PAM) solutions and Enterprise Password Managers help businesses meet different levels of security requirements.

Businesses opt for password managers when they need to store and organize their passwords and other important credentials in a centralized encrypted vault. Password managers make password management easier for the entire organization, from access provisioning for new users, managing accounts to administrative operations. Compared to PAM solutions, password managers are less expensive, and many companies deploy them as the first step to protect their privileged credentials. However, when companies expand, they outgrow the existing tools and the need for more advanced automated processes, auditing mechanisms, and session monitoring capabilities increase. PAM solutions help businesses fill this gap through the following features:

  • Discovering, controlling, and managing all your privileged accounts and their access to your critical systems, all in one place.

  • Generating detailed reports and comprehensive audit trails.

  • Providing secure remote access, remote password reset, session management, and recording.

  • Restricting the excessive usage and sharing of privilege accounts through the principle of least privilege.

Password manager or PAM - What's for you?

Cybersecurity is a vast landscape and it’s hard to find one solution that can effectively take care of all your organization’s needs. There are multiple factors that one has to consider before investing in an IT security solution. Parameters like organization size, IT team maturity, distribution of PII, budget constraints, compliance requirements help IT admins choose the right kind of solution to meet their requirements.

For example, a password manager would be a great start if your business has limited IT budget and the main requirement is to have a centralized password inventory and monitor credential usage.

An enterprise-grade password manager incorporates fine-grained access control workflows depending on user roles and requirements, along with advanced capabilities like automated credential rotation, policy enforcements, and so on.

A privileged access management (PAM) solution on the other hand, helps organizations take complete control over privileged accounts like root accounts, local admin accounts, domain admin accounts, and helps IT teams establish strict governance over privileged access pathways.

Apart from credential management, there are various facets in the IT ecosystem where security measures have to be implemented and there are multiple solutions available in the market to meet those requirements. And businesses need a combination of one or more of these solutions to seal security loopholes and gain significant visibility and control.

What qualifies as an enterprise password manager?

Any enterprise password manager should have the following basic features to protect your data and implement effective organizational control.

Centralized management

  • Password managers store not just passwords but also encryption keys, documents, and other digital identities, all under a centralized repository.

  • All the stored data are protected with 256-bit AES encryption.

  • Administrators gain centralized control and can specify 'who' can have 'what' access to resources.

AD integration, MFA, SSO

  • Business password managers let you integrate your vault with Active Directory services, with which you can securely onboard the employees and provide access to IT resources in minutes.

  • An enterprise password manager with Single Sign-On (SSO) integration would let the users authenticate through identity providers (Okta, GSuite, OneLogin, etc.,) to access the password vault. The service provider (i.e., password manager) sends in the required user information to the identity provider, as a request to validate the user.

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a secondary authentication layer to your encrypted data. Password managers support many MFA options; you can choose the one most suits your needs.

Password automation

  • Manually handling the passwords of an enterprise is cumbersome. Immediate notifications on password changes, comprehensive reports, and complete supervision are only possible with a password manager.

  • Enterprise password managers help with creating strong, unique passwords with a built-in password generator. Also, it helps in randomizing the passwords periodically and do the password reset processes.

Audit and Reports

  • Most business password managers come with an auditing mechanism that maintains a trail of activities (ex: password retrieval, account deletion, etc.) performed by your users.

  • The audit trails give you a complete overview; you can evaluate, analyze, and determine 'who' did 'what' and 'when.'

  • Password managers also provide comprehensive analytical reports with compelling security insights.

Role-based access control

  • Business password managers employ role-based access control workflows that enable users to only access their accounts and passwords based on their roles. Administrators get to set the level of privileges for each new user added to the password vault.

  • Users can be given time-limited permissions to access highly privileged credentials. With Just-in-Time access provision, administrators can grant access to any specific password or an application upon requests raised by users.

An enterprise password manager or a password vault is usually the first, yet significant step that businesses take to manage and secure their passwords. There are multiple parameters that organizations need to look into before deciding to purchase a password manager. Listed below are a few questions that can get you started on an analysis about your priorities and requirements.

  • Is it easy to adapt?
  • How secure is password protection?
  • What happens in case of a breach?
  • How does the password manager ensure only authorized users can access sensitive credentials?
  • Is it scalable and enterprise ready?

Password management best practices

Use strong, unique passwords

Using short, simple, and easily guessable passwords across multiple accounts makes it easier for hackers to exploit your sensitive data. Use strong and complex passwords that are tough to crack and rotate periodically for secured protection.

Randomize passwords at regular intervals

Enforcing frequent password rotation prevents the reuse of old passwords and restricts the possibility of multiple accounts being breached. Most organizations follow certain regulations or have a password rotation policy with which it provides specific recommendations for password rotation. The frequency of password rotation varies depending on the account type, value, and usage. Passwords of privileged accounts might require a more frequent rotation, while that of the standard user accounts might require a rotation once in 30 or 60 days.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

Apart from the standard security measures, enforce a second layer of authentication at all levels. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) can effectively restrict unauthorized access through two successive layers of authentication, ensuring that an authorized user is who they claim to be. Organizations need MFA to protect their systems, network, and data, and to defend themselves against various cybercrimes.

Check for compromised credentials

Review password usage across your organization regularly, and check if any of your passwords match with the breached credentials database available on the dark web.

Enforce principle of least privilege

Not all users should have complete access to all the data present in your organization. Access should be solely granted based on the users’ role and responsibilities, so they only have the necessary privileges to perform their tasks.

Continuously track audit trails

Repeated login attempts and the frequency of password reset requests are two key factors that should be examined often. Unusual trends in these actions could indicate a sign of password exploitation.

Stay protected with a password manager

Purchasing and deploying a password manager is a crucial step organizations need to take to secure and regulate access to sensitive information. Securden Password Manager for Enterprises helps organizations enforce password security best practices by automating password rotation, breached password identification (dark web monitoring), and tracking of password usage. You can generate strong unique passwords in compliance with set policies using the inbuilt password generator.

With tight approval workflows and just-in-time access provisions, you can restrict 'who' has access to 'what' and 'when'. Securden tracks all the password-related activities and provides actionable reports with detailed insights.