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How to protect your Firefox saved passwords with a Primary Password

For better security, don't rely on browser syncing to manage your passwords. Here's a better way.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer on
Firefox logo on an open laptop.
CNET

In a perfect world, you would never allow a web browser to save your passwords. Why? Because web browsers aren't exactly the most secure pieces of software on your desktop. To complicate matters, most modern browsers allow you to sync your passwords with an account, so they are available to any browser associated with that account.

That's not exactly safe.

Don't believe me? If you use the Firefox web browser (which is far more secure than, say, Chrome), open the browser and then go to Settings > Privacy & Security, and click Saved Logins. 

What you will see might surprise you. You can scroll through the entire list and view any saved password just by clicking the eye icon associated with the entry.

You're not prompted for a password or anything… you just get unfettered access to all the sights Firefox has to show you.

Also: Facebook users warned: You may have downloaded these password-stealing apps 

That's not good. Worse, you could wind up with your accounts being accessed by someone other than yourself.

What do you do?

Well, if you absolutely must have Firefox save your passwords, you need to protect them with a Primary Password. Once you've enabled the Primary Password (formerly called Master Password), you'll be prompted to type that password every time you open Firefox, and any time you want to view a saved password.

Fortunately, this is easy to do. The one thing you have to keep in mind is that if you forget that Primary Password, you're in for a challenging ride. In order to reset that password, you have to open Firefox, point it to chrome://pippki/content/resetpassword.xhtml, and then click Reset. However, when you do that, everything you've saved will be lost. 

So, if you want to keep those saved credentials intact, it's in your best interest to not lose that password. To that end, you should consider using a password manager and creating a very strong and unique password as your Firefox Primary Password.

How to protect your Firefox saved passwords with a Primary Password

Are you ready to set up this option? Let's do so.

Requirements

The only thing you'll need for this is an updated version of Firefox. I do recommend you always keep your web browsers updated to the latest versions to avoid software vulnerabilities. That's all you need. Let's set that Primary Password.

1. Open Settings

Open Firefox and then click the menu button (three horizontal lines) at the top right of the window. From the drop-down menu, click Settings.

The Firefox menu.

Access to Firefox Settings is found within this drop-down menu.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Navigate to Logins and Passwords

From the Settings window, click Privacy & Security in the left pane, and then locate Logins and Passwords.

The Privacy & Security section of Firefox Settings.

Saved passwords are found within the Privacy & Security section of Firefox Settings.

Image: Jack Wallen

Also: It's past time you started using a password manager (whether you like it or not)

3. Enable Primary Password

Click the check box for Use a Primary Password. A pop-up window will appear, where you enter and verify the Primary Password. You'll also see a very clear warning about remembering the Primary Password. Take heed of this warning and take note of your Primary Password (preferably in a password manager).

The Firefox Primary Password creation window.

Adding a Primary Password to Firefox.

Image: Jack Wallen

4. Click OK to set your Primary Password

Click OK and your Primary Password is set. Now, any time you start Firefox or attempt to view a password in Settings > Privacy & Security, you'll be prompted for that password.

Congratulations, you've added a much-needed layer of security to Firefox. Now, the only person who can view your saved passwords is you. Even with this added protection, you should consider not allowing your web browser to save your passwords and, instead, use a password manager.

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