Password Manager

Best practice states that passwords should contain letters (mixed case), numbers, and symbols, should be at least 8 characters in length, and should never be used twice. However, this isn’t very practical! How are you suppose to remember a different password for each site you have an account for?

I have been using 4 different password for my various accounts. This method has been working moderately well, but from a security standpoint, it’s suicide. I wanted to use a random password for each of my accounts. But, how would I ever remember all my passwords? A password manager, of course!

What I needed:

  • Passwords stored in an encrypted file
  • Master password to unlock the encrypted file
  • View passwords from the cli/ssh
  • Include additional information such as Security Questions and Answers
  • Integrated support for Firefox

What I used…

Vim Outliner

Vim Outliner is an outline processor. A screenshot is worth a thousand words.


By default when you save the file it will be a simple tab delimited text file. Vim, however, supports encryption. First, you need to set the encryption method by typing :setlocal cm=blowfish. If you want Blowfish to be the default encryption method for vim add the setlocal command to ~/.vimrc. Next, to encrypt the file, type :X. You will be prompted to set a password. Finally, save the file. When you open the file, you will be prompted for the password. If you fail to enter the right password you will see garbage characters.

Firefox Integration  (Mozilla-gnome-keyring)

Mozilla-gnome-keyring allows Firefox to store passwords and form logins in gnome-keyring. Gnome-keyring is much more secure than the default password manager in Firefox. The mozilla keyring must be unlocked to add / retrieve passwords. You can define how long the keyring should remain unlocked for (never, 15 minutes, 60 minutes, etc…). On my desktop I unlock the keyring for 60 minutes, but on my laptop I only unlock it for 10. When logging into a site, Firefox still prompts to  “Remember the Password”.  If you let Firefox remember the password, the password automatically gets recorded in the keyring.


I have been using this solution for about a month and it has fit my needs perfectly. I updated most of my accounts so they each have an unique password such as Dmqngi8ZoPyO or XGVoBOmd7Gar. Passwords are being stored twice: in the password file and in gnome-keyring. Since mozilla-gnome-keyring takes care of adding the passwords into gnome-keyring when I login to a site, I only have to record/update my passwords in the encrypted text file. In the rare case that I’m not at my computer, and I need a password, I simply ssh into my server and open the password file in vim.

Although the password file and keyring is encrypted it is still subject to a brute force attack. Make sure to use a strong master password, the longer the better. I would suggest at least 20 characters. In 2009, it would take a super computer 1.5hrs to crack an 8 character (alpha only; lower-case) password, but it would take 631 Billion years to crack a 20 character (alpha only; lower-case) password. Remember, as computers advance these times will decrease. And of course, a key logger could compromise the master password nearly instantly.

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