For security‘s sake, they should be unique for each system we access, and complicated enough that hackers can’t easily guess them. Yet if passwords comply to these rules, most people have so many of them that they resort to collections of sticky notes attached to the side of the monitor because they can’t remember the weird and wonderful strings they have to type.Even more annoying, if they are not at their home machine and need a password, they’re out of luck – no handy sticky notes.

Enter TokenKey. TokenKey is a $5 piece of software, downloadable from www.defendgate.com, that you install on any old USB data key you have around. Its footprint is modest – under three megabytes – and you can use the rest of the key’s capacity for other storage.

It has three functions: it generates strong passwords (8, 16, or 128 characters), it provides a secured location for the passwords you’d otherwise forget, and it can lock your PC when the USB key is removed.

Installation is straightforward. Download a zip file, run the setup program, and fill in the drive letter for your USB key. The software installs into a directory on the key called skey, and also, if you’re logged on as an administrative user, installs a service on your computer that allows you to generate and use its strong passwords for Windows login.

To create a password, you simply type a word or phrase into the authentication code box, then click a button to generate the desired size of password. If you leave the box blank and click a button, the software creates a password based on the key itself. The generated password is copied into Windows clipboard, ready to be pasted into any application or Web page you like.

Click the button labeled InfoSafe to open a password-protected document in which you can save passwords and other confidential information. You can use a TokenKey-generated password, based on a code phrase you CAN remember, to protect the stuff you can’t, and since it’s stored on the data key, you can access it anywhere you can plug in to a computer.

USB Lock is the third component. When you activate it and remove the USB key, the computer will be locked, with a blacked-out screen, until you reinsert the key. If you have enabled it, and want to shut it off, log off and log back on. It worked well, though on one occasion, after I put the key back in, the mouse was disabled, so I had to log off using the keyboard. It was irksome, but not a disaster.

The documentation consists of a single HTML file, accessible either from within the program or separately. It’s mostly adequate, but I get the sense it’s a work in progress. This software is a handy little tool for those with lots of passwords, or who want to reliably lock their PC when they walk away from it, and at $5 per seat, it’s within reach of the smallest company.

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