I confess that years ago I gave up trying to remember my passwords, and since the days of dial-up, I've maintained a small notebook that holds configuration details, account information and other scraps of important data. Although I've often thought about turning this notebook-and the sticky notes and loose slips of paper that go along with it-into a digital record, until recently I never saw the point in running a computer-based password manager. The times I need this data are invariably those when my computer isn't with me.
However, a password manager that runs on a mobile device and allows me to store an encrypted database in the cloud is another beast entirely, if the convenience and portability can outweigh my obvious security concerns. That's the main reason I wanted to take a look at mSeven Software's mSecure 3.0, which runs on Android and iOS devices and computers running Mac OS X or Windows. The data stores used by mSecure are protected by 256-bit Blowfish encryption, which is good enough for most of us civilians.
But a particularly attractive feature of mSecure is its ability to use local networks or the cloud for synchronization. Mobile devices running mSecure can sync with computers over a WiFi link, or in a peer-to-peer mode via the Dropbox file-transfer service; iCloud support will follow the launch of that service, which is expected by mid-October.
But mSecure is more than just a password manager. It's designed to take all sorts of personal data-from credit card numbers to clothing sizes-and put into a secure, replicable data store. The software comes with 17 templates designed around common information categories-from bank accounts and insurance policies to prescriptions and vehicle registration. I found it easy to create new category templates for data that didn't quite fit the canned formats, and to add fields to existing templates. Individual records and category types are easily distinguished through mSecure's icon library of 115 images that can be applied at the record or type level.
For simplicity's sake, I spent most of my testing with the iOS and Mac versions of mSecure 3.0. Windows machines running mSecure should have Bonjour for Windows installed for best results when syncing with iOS devices.
This release of mSecure adds a number of helpful features in addition to the Dropbox synchronization and record-grouping feature such as the ability to share records with trusted users via the device clipboard, email or Short Message Service; a toolbar in the main and Details panels with frequently used functions such as sync; record count markers; record duplication; and a customizable user interface for the mobile versions.
The mobile versions of mSecure have a list price of $9.99, although promotional pricing can lower that by $3. The Mac and Windows versions list at $19.99, with a $5 discount on purchases made through the Mac App Store. The mBackup utility for Mac and Windows systems, which allows the backup and restore of multiple mSecure data sets on an Android or iOS device, is a free download from the mSeven Website.
All around, I'm hard-pressed to find anything I don't like about mSecure. For a few hours, I thought I wanted it to validate credit card checksums during record input, but that's as close as I could come to identifying a missing feature. In short, I'm impressed enough with mSecure that I may finally throw away that notebook I've kept for the last 15 years.
Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, analyst P. J. Connolly referred to an absence of support for the Bonjour service in Android. This was based on obsolete documentation provided by mSeven, the makers of mSecure. The incorrect reference has been removed.