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How many passwords do you have to remember? The common answer is either too many and I sometimes forget them, or alternatively just the one as I use it for everything. Both options are bad in terms of security. Which is where password management systems come in, and these can take many different formats. Some people use the pen and paper format, writing down all logins and passwords in a book and hiding it somewhere. Bad, bad security. Others do the same, but using dedicated software, which is much better security-wise as the list can be encrypted. Atek has come up with a physical alternative in the Logio Secure Password Organizer.

Much the same size as a credit card, and only one eighth of an inch thick, the Logio can store up to 200 logins and has the processing power to generate random passwords if you want. The resulting database is protected using AES encryption, so you only have to remember one master password to unlock them all via a three line LCD display. This means that you can afford to make that master password a truly secure one because it is the only password you need to actually be able to recall. Don't worry, your passwords are kept in nonvolatile memory when the battery runs out and needs changing as well.

Atek itself admits that the input buttons on the Logio are relatively small and those with arthritis might have problems, however my stubby man fingers managed the task of entering site and password details without undue hassle. Certainly the unresponsiveness that some reviewers have complained of was not apparent on my test unit. That said, if you have a lot of passwords to input the process is a little on the tedious side and a lot on the time consuming side. It's not that it is difficult, much the same as sending a text message on a mobile phone in fact, but rather just long winded. If you only have a few passwords then you do not need such a device in the first place. My overall feeling is that the investment in terms of time taken is worth it as you end up with a pretty secure record of your passwords as a result.

Now, at this point, you might be thinking that surely a software based password organizer is a better option. Indeed, I use such a thing myself and not only does it store all my passwords for me, and encrypt them for added security, but also automatically enters them when needed to log into that service via my web browser. All I need to do is type in my master password and any site, no matter how complex the specific password, is opened. The difference, Atek would argue, is in the connectivity. Because the Logio is not connected to your computer in any way the master password that acts as the key to unlock your encrypted password database is much less vulnerable to being cracked. While it is possible, albeit unlikely, that someone would try to brute force attack their way into your web browser based secure password store the same cannot be said of the Logio. It would take years to input every possible combination manually in order to try and break the master code for the device, plus it will time out temporarily after just three wrong attempts. In that regard the Logio is certainly the safer option.

However, this has to be balanced against the possibility of physical damage or loss of the unit itself. There is no backup, unless you buy two and enter all the information manually twice, so if you lose the Logio you lose all your passwords. Software backups of encrypted databases can be made simply without reducing the security. Lose your Logio, lose all your passwords. That, plain and simple, is the true cost of real security.

Verdict: I found the LCD display a little awkward as it is not backlit, ambient lighting needs to be good in order to get the best results. Atek says this is to keep the Logio thin, a back light would add to the unit thickness. Obviously, being able to slip it inside your wallet/purse like a credit card adds to the usability of the device. I like the fact that it is small, portable, secure and relatively cheap at just under $30. I am not so keen on the somewhat time consuming data entry process when compared with using a proper computer keyboard. However, there is no denying that the Logio is more secure than a smartphone, PDA or laptop for storing passwords simply because the computer connectivity is removed from the equation. If that is enough to overcome the reduced ease of use issues, only you can decide.

As Editorial Director and Managing Analyst with IT Security Thing I am putting more than two decades of consulting experience into providing opinionated insight regarding the security threat landscape for IT security professionals. As an Editorial Fellow with Dennis Publishing, I bring more than two decades of writing experience across the technology industry into publications such as Alphr, IT Pro and (in good old fashioned print) PC Pro. I also write for SC Magazine UK and Infosecurity, as well as The Times and Sunday Times newspapers. Along the way I have been honoured with a Technology Journalist of the Year award, and three Information Security Journalist of the Year awards. Most humbling, though, was the Enigma Award for 'lifetime contribution to IT security journalism' bestowed on me in 2011.

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