Keychain Access: Wi-Fi Passwords & Holiday Sanity

| TMO Quick Tip

Let’s be fair, here—a lot of people don’t know what their Wi-Fi passwords are through no fault of their own. Maybe your relative had the Comcast guy set it up or asked a neighbor kid to do it. Or perhaps your dad wrote it down somewhere, and it’s been lost in the sea of paperwork that engulfs his office. In any case, after you offer to buy 1Password for them all, you can help them figure out what those passwords are and brighten your own Internet situation to boot. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

So ask your relative first if you can mess around with her machine. You’ll need her admin password to gain access to all of her other passwords, so I hope you’re a trustworthy individual. Start your sleuthing on that computer by opening Keychain Access, a program that lives in the Applications > Utilities folder. If you type “key” into Spotlight, you’ll find it easily.

Keychain Access is Mac OS X’s way of storing passwords so that you don’t have to enter them every time you need to sign on to something. For example, it’s why your Mac syncs with iCloud seamlessly—your password for that is kept in your keychain and provided automatically when it’s needed. It’d be a gigantic pain in some sensitive places to have to enter that information with every sync, wouldn’t it?

Once the program opens, you can type the name of the network you need the password for into the search bar at the upper-right of the window to find it quickly.

If you don’t know the network name, do a little more digging. You can just click on the Wi-Fi icon in the computer’s menu bar to see what network the machine you’re on is connected to.

None of us are particularly creative, except for the Skynet dude.

 

If you prefer, you can click on the “Kind” column in Keychain Access to sort by that. You’re looking for the “Airport Network Password” kind in that list, and you may have to ask your possibly-now-drunk relative which of her cats she named her network after if there are quite a few that her computer has previously joined.

Once you’ve found the correct one, just double-click on the item in question. When its window pops up, you’ll need to click on the “Show Password” checkbox at the bottom.

Then you’ll enter the machine’s login password to prove to Mac OS X that you’re allowed to see its private information. 

Afterward, the “Show Password” box will reveal all of its secrets to you, and you’re golden. Join the network on your iPhone! Join it on your iPad! Join it on your MacBook Air and your Pro! Join a therapy group for not being able to leave any Apple devices at home!

Now you can have Wi-Fi access on all your gear while you’re at someone else’s house. Goodness knows holidays wouldn’t be the same without being able to post videos of your drunk Southern relatives on your YouTube channel. Dad, if you see this, it wasn’t me. OK, it was totally me. But I don’t feel good about it. Mostly.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

Maybe your relative had the Comcast guy set it up or asked a neighbor kid to do it.

Oh God! I have run into that several times trying to help people. Print out a label with the password and stick it on the AirPort or whatever device you are using. If a burglar gets into the house the least of your worries is him getting your WiFi password.

Passwords and logins in general. Print them out and put them in a safe place, at least the important ones such as for banking, admin user, MacObserver and such. Make sure someone you trust knows where you stashed the list. I had a friend pass away a few weeks ago and his wife is having a hard time figuring out his passwords.

geoduck

Print them out and put them in a safe place,

A far far better solution. I have never liked or trusted 1Password or any other password locker software. A few reasons:
Many systems require a password to log in. How will 1Password help if they can’t log into their system to open the file? (I’ve run into this more than a few times.)
If someone does hack into your system they can steal the file. Because it’s a copy you won’t know it’s been stolen. Then the bad guys have all the time in the world and all the <zombie box> computing power they need to crack it. Encryption? I’ve been hearing for decades how this 32 bit, 64 bit, 128 bit etc. etc. encryption is uncrackable. You know what? Within a couple of years every one got cracked. It’s only a delaying tactic.

A paper list of passwords without identifiers on it so they won’t know what PW goes with what system is far better. Better yet, have half of each the password written down and stored in a safe place but when you use them you have to add something only you know. For example the list says the WiFi password is 1q@W3e$R but you know that the real password is !Q2w#E4r57Chevy. Even if they get the paper it won’t do them any good.

Lastly, have a file in your filing cabinet for passwords, online software license codes, and such. In this put the paper copy of the password list. I do like the idea of sticking the WiFi Password to the front of your AirPort or whatever WAP you have.

So ask your relative first if you can mess around with her machine. You?ll need her admin password to gain access to all of her other passwords

Odds are they already log in as administrator or with administrator rights. Equally likely, they will stare at you blankly when you ask.

Melissa Holt

Hey Lee and geoduck,

I have to disagree with you both about writing down passwords and keeping them somewhere, especially if you’re using the same (or similar) passwords for everything. The likelihood of someone stealing that paper and figuring out your logins? Much higher than the likelihood of someone being able to crack into your 1Password data. AgileBits has a nifty little security document that answers some of these questions.

How will 1Password help if they can?t log into their system to open the file? (I?ve run into this more than a few times.)

This is fairly easy to solve. I have my 1Password data syncing with Dropbox (and thus the 1Password app on my iPhone), so even if someone were to steal every device I own, I’d still have all of my passwords. And since none of the ones I use fill in automatically anywhere (with a few exceptions, like my Wi-Fi and Apple Mail ones), a thief would be hard-pressed to be able to access anything important before I could lock him out.

I keep all of my personal data?social security numbers, credit card numbers, software license information, logins and passwords, pretty much EVERYTHING?in 1Password. I trust it with my digital life. It’s one of the few paid programs that I recommend to everyone in my other life as a consultant.

So I’m sorry to disagree, but it’s certainly interesting to hear what you all think about security! Should be a cool discussion.

?Melissa

Lee Dronick

especially if you?re using the same (or similar) passwords for everything. The likelihood of someone stealing that paper and figuring out your logins?

The passwords are in the fire safe along with diplomas, birth certificates, home deed, auto titles, and such.

With on big exception I use, and recommend, different and complicated passwords for very important accounts. I only have a few of those; bank, retirement annuity accounting, medical insurance, TurboTax, cell phone service, Apple ID, AMEX, web host, and enomcentral for domain registration.

Non critical passwords such as for blogs are in the Notes app.

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