Strong passwords can be the difference between keeping an account safe and sound, and being open to attack.
Password managers can keep you safe, but since they create complicated strings of alphanumeric and special characters — and fill them in for you most of the time — using them can mean you usually don’t know what they are.
If you save passwords using your web browser, you’re probably in a similar boat. It’s all well and good to save time this way, but if you need to log in to your email or bank account on another device, you’re out of luck. Tap or click here to learn why you should stop memorizing passwords.
Or you think you’re out of luck. The truth is there’s a way to see hidden passwords in any browser. Here’s how to find and protect them, since hackers can use this trick, too.
To reveal a hidden password …
When autofill or your password manager insert your password on your behalf, it usually shows up as dots or asterisks. This lets you how many characters your password is, but doesn’t reveal what they are.
To actually see the characters on any web browser, just do the following:
- Right click on the area where your password is filled in.
- Click “Inspect Element” or “Inspect” in the menu.
- You’ll see coding for the site. Find the line that starts with “input type=password”; you can type CTRL + F, and put in “password” to make finding this easier for yourself.
- Double click to make the code text editable, and change the word “password” in the code to “text”. Hit the Enter key on your keyboard.
- Your password should now be revealed in the password box area.
Different browsers have different layouts for Inspect/Inspect Element, but they all work basically the same way, which is why this trick is so universal. Once you reveal your password, you can type it into other devices as needed, or you can write them down elsewhere so you don’t have to resort to this trick very often.
But how do you keep your passwords safe if they’re this easy to access on your web browser? Are they safe with autofill?
How to protect your passwords from this hack
Here’s the good news: Hackers can’t usually use this trick unless they physically have your computer. But if your computer is stolen, anyone could access your important and sensitive accounts.
For this reason, one of the most important things you can do is put a password on your computer. Tap or click here to learn how to make a safe password.
Yes, you’ll delay accessing your computer by a few seconds every time it goes to sleep or you power it back on, but it’ll make it a lot harder for a thief or hacker to get into your web browser and find any autofill passwords stored there.
If you have to bring your laptop out in public, make sure it stays with you at all times, or if you do leave it, that it’s left with someone you trust. Bring your laptop bag with you everywhere and double check you have it before exiting and entering different locations.
What if you have a desktop and you’re pretty confident someone won’t steal it? We’d still encourage password-protecting the computer and even to install a lock on the door to the room. Store your laptop in a consistent place and make that space lockable, too. The harder your computer is to access, the safer it is.
Now, you may be thinking another way to overcome this issue is to just not use autofill. We’d still encourage the use of a password manager with that feature, as the passwords they create are some of the safest you’ll find, and they’re incredibly convenient.
But yes, you can also just memorize passwords and input them manually every time to make it more difficult for thieves to access your information. If you like to write down your passwords, and autofill makes you nervous, make sure you secure the place where you keep your passwords list.
Put them in a notebook, where thieves or hackers would have to flip through and hunt for them. Consider writing them in a plain notebook, rather than one designed to hold passwords, which are easy to fill in but devastating should a home invader see it.
Also consider keeping the written passwords away from your computer to make finding them a little extra difficult. Tap or click here to learn about passwords that are actually against the law in certain states.
Make sure you keep your devices safe with our above tips, and ensure your passwords, whether they come from a password manager or not, remain solely your passwords.