An Overview of Open Source Password Managers and Their Pros & Cons

Password managers are increasing in popularity due to the rising number of password compromises through phishing and brute force techniques. They are considered a more secure alternative to managing passwords. There are proprietary password managers available for those who prefer a pre-packaged solution, as well as open source options for those who want more customization.

This article explores how open source password managers function, discusses their advantages and disadvantages, and provides some popular options to choose from.

What is an open source password manager?
Most password managers are proprietary, meaning their code belongs to a specific company and cannot be modified by users. Open source password managers, on the other hand, use code that is publicly accessible and can be customized by users. Some open source password managers are free and allow a community of users to contribute to and improve the software over time. Other providers offer hybrid solutions that combine open source code with modifications or packaging for easier deployment. These hybrid solutions may be free to use but may have fees for maintenance and support.

Open source password managers are especially popular in organizations that already have expertise in open source tools, have already implemented open source solutions in their enterprise, or wish to minimize costs.

How do open source password managers work?
Open source password managers operate similarly to proprietary ones. Some are installed locally, storing passwords on the user’s device, while others are web-based and store passwords in the cloud. Like proprietary password managers, open source solutions use encryption to secure passwords, require user authentication for access, and integrate with web browsers and applications.

Compared to proprietary password managers, open source options provide more control as their source code can be modified to include additional features. If a proprietary password manager lacks a desired feature, there is often no option to add it.

Advantages and disadvantages of open source password managers
Open source password managers encourage collaboration and community involvement, allowing developers to contribute to the code for improved functionality. However, reliance on community development can lead to stagnation or discontinuation. When considering an open source password manager, users must weigh the benefits against the drawbacks.

Benefits of open source password managers include:

– Lower cost or no cost compared to proprietary alternatives.
– Customizable to fit specific needs and workflows.
– Greater likelihood of vulnerabilities being identified and addressed due to community scrutiny.

Drawbacks of open source password managers include:

– Requires skilled developers with open source coding and security expertise.
– Lack of support typically provided by proprietary password management vendors.
– Usage licenses may be restrictive and lack industry-required security warranties and accreditations.

Popular open source password manager options include Bitwarden, Buttercup, KeePass, Passbolt, and Proton Pass. Each offers unique features and pricing plans suited to different user requirements.

Deciding on using an open source password manager depends on factors such as pricing, internal resources trained in open source, familiarity with deployment, customization needs, and specific security requirements. Organizations with expertise in open source and internal resources are better suited for open source password managers. Others may benefit from a well-supported open source option or a proprietary password manager designed for enterprise use.

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