Almost everyday we hear on the news how some computer hackers were able to access personal accounts either via guessing the owners password or by other devious means. So how can you protect your personal information?

Start with establishing strong passwords to all of your accounts. Many people simply use a password that they can remember and often have the same password for multiple accounts. This makes it easy for the hackers to "crack" once they have some of your basic personal information. Do not use family names (children's, pets, etc.) also stay away from using common dates such as birthdays, anniversaries, or other easily accessible combinations of the two.

Using multiple passwords can prevent the hackers from gaining access to all of your accounts if they happen to "crack" into your email or one of your other accounts. Many programs that we use require us to change our password every few months. Given this fact and the multiple accounts that we have that requires passwords, how are we supposed to keep track of all of this information? Many people simply write down their passwords and keep them close by — which is one of the worst things you can do.

There are several programs that can help you create strong passwords — and keep track of all of your logins. Password managers are programs that store and encrypt your passwords. With a password manager, you have to remember only one password to log in to all of the websites you use. Here are several of the most reliable, user-friendly options.

  • 1Password: A favorite of many web users, 1Password offers apps for Windows, Mac, and even iPhone and iPad. 1Password allows you to create strong, unique passwords for all of your sites. Then you can log in with a single click or tap. And recently, 1Password added a feature call Watchtower — built to keep you informed about your security. Watchtower checks your websites and logins for known vulnerabilities and lets you know which sites may need a new password.
  • LastPass: This cloud-based password manager syncs with your browser and imports saved passwords. Or simply navigate to the websites you use, and LastPass will prompt you to manually enter and save your logins. LastPass offers multi-factor authentication, which adds a second login step for additional security. The free version allows you to sync your account to multiple computers. LastPass premium costs $12 a year and adds mobile and tablet access.
  • Dashlane: Like LastPass, Dashlane imports passwords from your browser and saves them in a secure "password vault". Dashlane can rate the strength of your existing passwords and automatically generate stronger ones. Dashlane gives you a choice between storing data locally or in the cloud. The free version covers use on one device, while the premium version is $19.99 and syncs across all devices.
  • Roboform: Roboform mimics a browser bookmark: You select your desired website from a drop-down list, and Roboform fills in your login information. It also saves form data, such as name, address, and online payment information. Like Dashlane, Roboform allows you to choose between local or cloud storage. Roboform Everywhere, which offers one license across multiple devices, costs $9.95 for the first year and $19.95 each year after that. Roboform Desktop, which offers a local storage on one computer, costs a one-time $29.95 fee. Finally, Roboform2Go costs a one-time $39.95 fee and allows you to store passwords on a USB drive and use with any computer.

These are just a few of the programs that offer this service. Do some research, read users reviews, and choose the password manager that suits your needs.