For years users have wanted to save time and effort when accessing servers on the network, Web sites requiring credentials, etc. So, there have been options in the operating system to save usernames and passwords for faster and easier access. I am sure you have seen this, either in a prompt or a checkbox, asking you to save the password. In Windows, you have the ability to store the credentials for resources that you access often, or just don’t want to have to remember the password. Although this is a time-saving option, you might want to reconsider using this feature due to security issues.
Windows stores the passwords that you use to log in, access network shares, or shared devices. All of these passwords are stored in an encrypted format, but some passwords easily are decrypted using your Windows login password.
Windows stores the login credential details in a hidden desktop app named Credential Manager. Here is how to find this app, how to see which credentials are stored by Windows and how to manage them:
What is the Credential Manager?
Credential Manager is the “digital locker” where Windows stores log-in credentials like usernames, passwords, and addresses. This information can be saved by Windows for use on your local computer, on other computers in the same network, servers or internet locations such as websites. This data can be used by Windows itself or by programs like File Explorer, Microsoft Office, Skype, virtualization software and so on. Credentials are split into several categories:
- Windows Credentials – are used only by Windows and its services. For example, Windows can use these credentials to automatically log you into the shared folders of another computer on your network. It can also store the password of the Homegroup you have joined and uses it automatically each time you access what is being shared in that Homegroup. If you type a wrong log-in credential, Windows remembers it and fails to access what you need. If this happens, you can edit or remove the incorrect credential, as shown in later sections of this article.
- Certificate-Based Credentials – they are used together with smart-cards, mostly in complex business network environments. Most people will never need to use such credentials and this section is empty on their computers. However, if you want to know more about them, read this article from Microsoft: Guidelines for enabling smart card logon with third-party certification authorities.
- Generic Credentials – are defined and used by some of the apps you install in Windows so that they get the authorization to use certain resources. Examples of such apps include OneDrive, Slack, Xbox Live, etc.
- Web Credentials – they represent login information for websites that are stored by Windows, Skype, Internet Explorer or other Microsoft apps. They exist only in Windows 10 and Windows 8.1, but not in Windows 7.
How to open the Credential Manager in Windows:
The method that works the same in all versions of Windows. First, open the Control Panel and then go to “User Accounts –> Credential Manager.”
You’ll notice there are two categories: Web Credentials and Windows Credentials. The web credentials will have any passwords from sites that you saved while browsing in Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge. Click on the down arrow and then click on the Show link.
You’ll have to type in your Windows password in order to decrypt the password.
f you click on Windows Credentials, you ’ll see fewer credentials stored here unless you work in a corporate environment. These are credentials when connecting to network shares, different computers on the network, or network devices such as a NAS.
In the same way, I’ll also mention how you can view Google Chrome saved passwords. Basically, each browser has the same feature, so you can do the same thing for Firefox, Safari, etc. In Chrome, click on the three dots at the top right and then click on Settings. Scroll down and then click on Passwords.
Under Passwords, enable Offer to save your web passwords. You can view the saved passwords.
History of the Credential Manager:
According to a 1996 Network Applications Consortium (NAC) study, users in large enterprises spend an average of 44 hours per year performing login tasks to access a set of four applications. The same study revealed that 70 percent of calls to companies’ Help desks were password-reset requests from users who had forgotten a password.
Single sign-on (SSO) is an approach that attempts to reduce the time users spend performing login tasks and the number of passwords users must remember. The Open Group, an international vendor and technology-neutral consortium dedicated to improving business efficiency, defines SSO as the “mechanism whereby a single action of user authentication and authorization can permit a user to access all computers and systems where that user has access permission, without the need to enter multiple passwords”
SSO solutions come in two flavors: solutions that deal with one set of user credentials and solutions that deal with multiple sets of user credentials.
A good example of the first type of solution is a Kerberos authentication protocol-based SSO setup.
A good example of the second type of solution is the Credential Manager. Credential Manager is a new SSO solution that Microsoft offers in Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. It’s based on a secure client-side credential-caching mechanism.
The Windows 2000 (and earlier) requirement that users must re-enter the same credentials whenever they access resources on the same Internet or intranet server can be frustrating for users, especially when they have more than one set of credentials. Administrators often must cope with the same frustration when they have to switch to alternative credentials to perform administrative tasks. Credential Manager solves these problems.
Browser-stored passwords make it easy for hackers to get inside your network
allowing a browser to “remember” passwords can pose a major security risk because:
- Password recovery tools can easily find these passwords.
- Browsers typically do not use strong encryption for these passwords.
- Users do not monitor and rarely change these passwords once they store them in their browser.
DO NOT USE THE “REMEMBER PASSWORD” FEATURE ON APPLICATIONS SUCH AS WEB BROWSERS (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer etc.)
For IT Admins:
Get your FREE Browser-Stored Password Discovery Tool from Thycotic to quickly and easily identify risky storage of passwords in web browsers among your Active Directory users. You get reports that identify:
- Top 10 common machines with browser-stored passwords
- Top 10 common users with browser-stored passwords
- Top 10 most frequently used websites with browser-stored passwords
The Browser-Stored Password Discovery Tool is free. You can re-run the Browser-Stored Password Discovery Tool at any time to identify browser password risks and help enforce compliance with web browser security policies.