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I Forgot My Password – Can I Somehow Get My Auto-login-Remembered Password?

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I’ve forgotten my password [to a web site, mail account, instant messaging tool, etc.]. However, I can log in because I have ‘remember my password’ configured, so the computer just logs me in automatically since it saved password. Is there a way I can see what that password is?
Yes. And that should scare you, because it’s an important lesson about just how dangerous it is to use ‘remember me’. Why? Because if you can recover it, then anyone who has access to the machine can probably recover it. ‘Remember my password’ doesn’t seem like such a good idea anymore, now does it?

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When you choose ‘Remember my password’, or any equivalent, the software does exactly that – it saves a copy of your password somewhere on the computer. Sometimes it’s stored in plain text – available to anyone if they know where to look, sometimes it’s encrypted or obfuscated in some way. Regardless, it has to be quick and easy for the program to fetch the remembered password and decrypt it, if needed, each time you login or do whatever it is that requires that password. And that applies to almost all common applications that save passwords, including nearly all instant messaging programs, nearly all email programs, and nearly all websites that require some kind of account name and password to login. So it stands to reason that there would be utility programs that also can retrieve those very same account names and passwords. Let’s start with one that you might not even realize. Firefox If you use Firefox as your web browser, do this:
  • Click on the Tools menu
  • Click on the Options menu item
  • Click on the Passwords tab
  • Click on the View Saved Passwords button
  • In the resulting dialog, click on the Show Passwords button

If you’re like me, you’ll be fairly shocked the first time you do this. Yes, you can set a ‘master password’ to protect your passwords, but the default is not to have one. And anyone who walks by your computer while you’re logged in can do this. For other programs, you need to download a few simple utilities. Specifically, NirSoft has available several Password Recovery Tools. Included are tools that will display the saved passwords for a host of different programs and situations. For example, here’s a screen shot resulting from running the ‘MessenPass’ utility on my machine: MessenPass Screenshot You can see that it lists, for each IM program I run, the service, the account name and the password. While I’ve obfuscated them here in this example for my protection, the account names and passwords are displayed in clear text. I’m not guaranteeing it, of course, since there could be many other things at play, but if you’ve lost a password, and you have ‘Remember’ turned on, there’s a very high likelihood that you can grab one of the utilities from NirSoft, and recover it. It’s certainly one of the first things I would try. Yet Another Word About Security I encourage you to download those tools and play with them on your own machine. Using them, you’ll see how trivially easy it is to recover many passwords that are merely hidden by the ‘remember’ function of so some applications. Now remember: anyone can use them. If you leave your machine logged in, anyone who can walk up to it can insert a USB stick with these tools, and get your saved passwords just as trivially. And while logging out or using a password protected screen saver puts up a barrier, even that barrier, while significant, is not impenetrable. I want to make sure you remember two important things: 1) ‘Remember my password’ is a convenience, and a security risk. Use it with caution. 2) If your machine is not physically secure it is not secure. If someone can walk up to it, insert a disk and reboot it, they can take total control. And that includes recovering your passwords with tools as we’ve seen here. And remember also, that while you’ve just read this article and learned how to recover your remembered password … your ‘friends’ and perhaps those who are not your friends have also read this and learned how to steal your remembered password.

28 comments on “I Forgot My Password – Can I Somehow Get My Auto-login-Remembered Password?”

  1. A much safer approach would be to use a password manager like Lastpass to remember you passwords for you. It uses industrial strength encryption to protect your passwords, and protects against somebody sitting down at your computer and seeing your passwords.

  2. I’m actually evaluating Roboform right now.

    Roboform will display Internet Explorer cached passwords (only, apparently). That’s yet another security risk, as anyone who can walk up to your machine can install RoboForm and then see those passwords. It’s unclear how/if Roboform handles messenger and other passwords that exist at the time it’s installed.

    Once you install it, it WILL display passwords that it maintains for you.

  3. i understand that by using some software such as MessenPass you can see your password in text if someone uses “remember my password”. however, is it possible to recover previous password…the one that you had before your current password. is there a way?

  4. If the article above didn’t help, the you’re out of luck. If you forget your password and you used a bogus email address, there’s no way to recover. ALWAYS USE A REAL EMAIL ADDRESS THAT ONLY YOU HAVE ACCESS TO.

  5. Right above the button you had to push to submit that comment is this text:

    “I cannot recover lost passwords or hacked accounts. “

    Is that not clear? What am I missing?

  6. is there a way to view ALL of your passwords used on a single account over time? because i lost my myspace password and tried several others off the top of my memory while i still had the save password button clicked is there a way to view ALL entered passwords?

  7. —–BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE—–
    Hash: SHA1

    No, not that I’m aware of.

    Leo

    —–BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE—–
    Version: GnuPG v1.4.7 (MingW32)

    iD8DBQFHfoN7CMEe9B/8oqERAmaFAJ0Qz/XqIf8Ek2+SnpXhKgezkCZ74ACfZh1B
    IciNWyKHt1VcRLoPYE1yNcs=
    =AOXr
    —–END PGP SIGNATURE—–

  8. I use Firefox with a master password, but Opera is my favourite browser (except when it doesn’t display certain web sites as the designers intended). I prefer the way Opera handles passwords, except that I’ve found no way to retrieve a site password when, for example, a web site doesn’t display and I want to switch to Firefox.
    Opera’s good with cookies, by the way, in that I can delete them all on exit, except for a few sites that I’ve made exceptions.

  9. A much safer approach would be to use a password manager like Lastpass to remember you passwords for you. It uses industrial strength encryption to protect your passwords, and protects against somebody sitting down at your computer and seeing your passwords.

  10. I am just putting my two cents in here. I have been a user of RoboForm for a few years. I have a very strong password and I also have a fingerprint reader on my laptop. I rarely forget my passwords but lately have had to change a few due to compliance for complexity for secure websites concerning money. As long as I have 4 of my 10 fingers I can always get into my computer and my passwords. No one else can.
    But I do recall your blog about an administrator password disc work around. Is my laptop still secure? I do not know anyone who would have that disc but it’s not impossible. Am I correct?
    Thank you, my Internet Guru.

    • I’m afraid I don’t understand the question. If you’re asking if the admin password can be reset by booting from a CD, yes for BIOS machines, and UEFI machines with secure boot turned off.

  11. Hi Leo and your friends. Well I have been reading all of your sites. And I have to say since yahoo came up with this change your password. I did exactly that. Now I can’t remember my password for nothing. I call the help line they placed me on hold for 1 hour when the guy came on he walked me through 2 steps and hung up on me. I will do some of the downloads I hope I can get my password back. It is very stressful especially when you use it for work. Yahoo wanted everyone to change their password but yet they don’t provide you with help.i wouldn’t have changed if they didn’t ask please help.So far I’m using my other email

  12. Gmail is an email account, and your Facebook can be accessed with a tablet using either a browser of the Facebook app. You just have to set up the app, or access the account via the browser using the email and password combination.

  13. TOO MUCH security!! There is no such thing as 100% security. The likelihood of someone even trying to access my stuff is almost non-existent.
    It just makes things more difficult for me to access my own.
    The might find out the secret location of my DIRTY UNDERWEAR!!

  14. my facebook password resent me plz
    help me
    my facebook unlogin
    my facebook hacked and password changed plz help me

  15. I need to access my email from my home pc, to the library pc… this is because I have no home printer and need to print from the library’s pc

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