Please note that SafeWallet is discontinued. I’ve switched to Lastpass Premium in combination with a Yubikey.
In this article I will review SafeWallet 3, an application that stores passwords in a secure vault (so you won’t need to memorize all those strong 16 character passwords) and synchronizes those across different laptops and smartphones.
It is simply one of those must-have applications that I’ll always install, and therefore is SafeWallet (formerly SBSH SafeWallet) listed on the what I use page. SafeWallet has been upgraded recently to version 3, which features a clever and more secure synchronization mechanism that keeps your stored passwords in sync on all devices.
Safewallet security – A closer look
On the SafeWallet website you can read more about the security of the application and service, for example the use of the AES 256, a military grade encryption algorithm.
“Unlike most online services, SafeWallet technology knows how to sync your data without your encryption key. This means your encryption key, i.e., your master password, is never sent to us, making it impossible to access your data for anyone but you.”
Because I wanted to learn more about this “sync data without sending an encryption key” I contacted Amit Regev, CEO of SafeWallet. Since we know each other for quite some time, he was open and willing to share more details about this unique part of SafeWallet:
“The user’s SafeWallet data is structured in blocks (the cards and folders). Each block is encrypted using the master password and is considered a closed-box, so no one but you can open the data in this box. The boxes are then ‘labeled’ with syncing related data, which has no connection or relevance to the data stored inside them. All of these blocks are then sent to the server side for syncing. After the initial synchronization, only blocks that are modified will be sent, so the actual syncing takes very little traffic (another important advantage compared to the older SafeWallet 2 version that used to submit the entire file to Dropbox each time).”
As for data storage,
“The SafeWallet account data is stored on both the devices and on the server, so you can still use it when offline – no need to be online to use your SafeWallet. You can also make changes to your data while offline and our new service will know how to properly merge those changes (something we couldn’t do when using Dropbox for our sync). Since the user master password is never sent to our server, the data stored on our server can’t be used in anyway, even in the event that someone manage to access our servers. Something that shouldn’t happen too – but even if, the data is not usable to any way, not even us.”
I’m not a security specialist, but it sounds like an excellent concept which -to me- shows conceptual similarities with incremental backups.
Safewallet for Windows 8, Apple iPhone & Android
SafeWallet has always been available on Microsoft Windows and multiple mobile platforms like Apple iOS and Google Android. SafeWallet 2, the previous version, also featured a Windows Phone 7 application. The support for Windows Phone is something that I personally miss (despite the fact that I understand the business reasoning of the SafeWallet CEO).
SafeWallet Password Generator
SafeWallet also features a password generator, which I simply use to generate new, strong passwords for online services that I use. You can set the password length, the use of upper case characters, lower case characters, numbers and special characters. Most of my passwords have a length of 16 characters or more, with use of all the previous mentioned character types. The result is a strong password, which for most important services I change every 60 or 70 days. 🙂
The password generator feature is also available on the mobile versions of SafeWallet 3, so you can create new and secure passwords on the go.
SafeWallet on Windows 8
I mainly use SafeWallet 3 on my Windows 8 powered laptops. You simply launch the SafeWallet application from the Windows 8 start screen and enter your account name (e-mail address) and password. You can create and edit cards in your SafeWallet and organize them in folders.
The SafeWallet window shows three columns. In the first column on the left you have the complete list folders in your vault. In addition there is a folder called favorite cards, however it is shown below the contents of the vault. Via tools, settings, you can change the favorite folders position to the top position.
In the second column you get an overview of the cards in a selected folder, and when you select a card in the second column the card contents will be shown in the third column (on the right). You can create new cards from templates or even create new templates.
In addition you can change the network and security settings for SafeWallet 3.
There is a great tutorial for importing a previous version of SafeWallet (even if it is just a mobile version). Please visit the SafeWallet FAQ in the support section of the website.
Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome extensions
During the installation process you can install SafeWallet extensions for most common web browsers, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. These extensions help you to quickly enter the credentials of your favorite websites or services. You can also quickly save the credentials to your vault directly from the web browser SafeWallet extensions. Personally I don’t have these browser extensions installed and just use the core of SafeWallet 3 on Windows 8.
SafeWallet on Apple iPhone 4S
I used my girlfriends’ Apple iPhone 4S to install SafeWallet 3 and get an idea of the user experience on this device. The user experience basiscally follows the same structure and functionality as the Windows 8 version of SafeWallet 3. You start with entering the username and password at the login screen.
In the bottom of the screenshots you can see a navigation-bar where you can browse through your cards and folders, or jump directly to your favorite cards. There is also an integrated browser included which has similar behavior as the browser extensions described earlier with the Windows version of SafeWallet 3.
In the final and fourth tab of the navigation bar you will see the settings screen. From there you can also use the password generator on the go. The last screenshot shows the about-screen of SafeWallet 3 for iOS.
SafeWallet on Android
SafeWallet 3 is also available in the Google Play store. Unfortunately I don’t have an Android powered device (like for example the HTC One) so I can’t do some real testing on this platform. Given the screenshots of SafeWallet on the Google Play store, I don’t think that the user experience on Google Android really differs from the SafeWallet-on-iOS use.
SafeWallet Control Panel (in the cloud)
You can manage the devices that access your SafeWallet 3 data directly from the SafeWallet Control Panel that runs in the cloud. You see the device name, device type, the last sync date and a button to remove the device from accessing your data.
In addition you can review the SafeWallet 3 revisions. Each revision is numbered with a unique identifier and the SafeWallet Control Panel shows the device type on which the revision has been completed and the last sync date. Finally you can revert a revision with a single click in your SafeWallet 3 Control Panel.
Concluding thoughts and wrap-up
SafeWallet 3 is a free must have application to securely store your important passwords and account information. Personally I do think that SafeWallet has an interesting security model compared to SafeWallet 2, SPB Wallet or Iliumsoft eWallet.
SafeWallet 3 creates free space in my head, because I don’t need to memorize the passwords for every product or service. Summarizing SafeWallet 3 is one of my most-used applications per day together with for example Microsoft Office 2013. Furthermore SafeWallet 3 helps me to create very strong passwords for new services I subscribe to.
While SafeWallet 3 is one of my favorite apps, there is room for improvement as well:
- Unfortunately there are no SafeWallet 3 applications available yet for Windows Phone 7.8, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 RT;
- From a product life cycle perspective I do miss a “check for updates” option or an auto-update mechanism so that I will always be using the latest version of SafeWallet 3;
I’m definitely looking forward to run SafeWallet 3 on a Nokia Lumia 920 and the Microsoft Surface. I honestly do hope that the SafeWallet team will start with the development of a Windows Phone version, since personally I want to access SafeWallet 3 information on the go.
Don’t wait until tomorrow, and start using a well-developed, secure and free Windows application today. Download SafeWallet 3 here !