Across computers, Android devices and Apple iOS gadgets, the PasswordBox application encrypts and stores website user names and passwords. A master password unlocks “the box” and automatically logs a user into websites. Users can share their logins, say for a Netflix account, with friends and family without revealing the actual password.
Since all a user has to do is remember that master key, PasswordBox can generate a random password for each website account. But if a user forgets the key, the box is locked forever and must be restarted from scratch.
To start off, users can import passwords they have saved in their browser. PasswordBox also generates a customizable start-page, similar to what’s included in Chrome and Firefox, that has links to commonly visited websites.
The service costs $1 a month to store more than 25 logins, but the cost is waived for inviting five friends to join. The service signed up about a million users during its beta period.
Chief Executive Dan Robichaud said he sold his last online venture for tens of millions of dollars, so making money off his new San Francisco-based company isn’t yet a priority.
“If people are confident to use our product, there are many other things we can handle for them,” he said. “But I think we should nail down passwords first.”
The company is focusing on three key elements. Many competing services fail to work with certain websites, and Robichaud wants PasswordBox to fail the least. As of last week, it was still missing some major websites such as NYTimes.com.
Robichaud recently visited with Apple and other companies to talk about promoting the product in app stores and products.
“We’re looking to get to a couple of hundred of million users, so we’re looking for partnerships for distribution,” Robichaud said.
He said he is also trying to target both the tech-savvy crowd and people more like his mother.
By the fall, people who want even stronger security can buy a fingerprint scanner that can be attached to a phone. Working alongside the master password, the scanner would offer an extra layer of security.
"I don't expect my mother to need that," Robichaud said.
A less technical means of extra security will be available, too. Users can change their settings to reprompt for the master password on select websites.
Still, PasswordBox and its competitors have several downsides. PasswordBox can store logins for mobile apps, such as Facebook and Twitter, but a user must first change their default keyboard. That could mean swapping out Swype for something less sophisticated.
Logging onto websites from a mobile device through PasswordBox requires a user to use PasswordBox’s browser rather than Chrome or Firefox.
LastPass Premium, also $1 a month, includes many of the same features, but users may find its user interface less inviting.
Join us for a live video chat at 2 p.m. Pacific on password security. Technology reporter Paresh Dave will be speaking with security expert Randy Abrams.