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I am considering putting a forward a proposal to use a password database/manager instead of a flat (PGP) encrypted file for managed passwords for our team to access. I would like to hear some suggestions for the pros and cons of doing this. I am personally for using a password database due to the extra user processes involved in using a flat file. For this discussion I would not like to focus on choice of encryption itself as any password manager can match PGP in robustness/speed. To get us started here are some of mine below:

PROS of password database

  • Does not require decryption, amending and re-encryption of data upon changing or adding a password.
  • No risk of unencrypted data being written to disk (users could pipe to text-editor). Shredding of file may not be conclusive based on file system used.
  • Adding/removing of staff requires decryption and re-encryption of data with new split key.

CONS of password database

  • Perceived or actual lack of compatibility on some platforms.
  • Potential for no CLI to be supported.

closed as primarily opinion-based by schroeder, Xander, Iszi, TildalWave, Gilles Jul 4 '14 at 20:47

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    I suggest this question needs to be rephrased so it can be answered directly, pro/con lists are too open to opinion. Also i would include more details about your database as a password storage system, as its unclear how it is meant to work vs a pgp encrypted flat file. Without knowing that it will be difficult for any one to provide an objective analysis of either method. – AlexH Jul 3 '14 at 14:15
  • I decided to not mention this as I would like the discussion to be solely on the 'user logistics' (as schroeder referred to) rather than the encryption itself. Post edited. – Benjamin Goodacre Jul 3 '14 at 15:38
  • @BenjaminGoodacre We're not a discussion forum, and questions soliciting prolonged discussions don't fit well into our Q&A model. Please refer to our About and Help center for more information. Thanks! – TildalWave Jul 4 '14 at 15:02
  • The user logistics are the important thing here (as your pro/con list shows). There is a good question lurking here, but this isn't it — I recommend reading What types of questions should I avoid asking and in particular the guidelines for subjective questions. Instead of giving us a discussion starter, lay out the problem and call for reasoned solutions. – Gilles Jul 4 '14 at 20:47
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By sharing passwords, they are already 'compromised', which might be an ok risk for your environment. You know you have to change ALL shared passwords, even the encryption key whenever you lose a member of the team, so there is not going to be a lowered workload by using either method.

What you are really talking about then is simply a 'user logistics' issue. There is no 'security' issue here to discuss, as long as passwords/keys are changed when someone leaves. Use the tool that fits your team workflow best.

As a side note, I'd REALLY like to suggest you limit the number of shared passwords to an absolute minimum. I believe LastPass allows you to share credentials with another user without them being able to read what the password is (works with web logins). Other solutions might be similar.

  • I agree with schroeder's philosophy. Certainly from an access control perspective, it would be best to have the ability to audit/revoke user access. It is likely worth the time, if this is an available option. I know, realistically, this is not always an available option. – M15K Jul 3 '14 at 14:49
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A flat file, IMHO, requires too much user intervention. Unless you have it under some sort of revision control ... could get unwieldy. I personally like using KeePass, which also has a few ways of doing multi-user syncing.

I don't really have pros and cons for you since I don't know what your requirements are. But it seems to me that you've made up your mind that you want to use a password vault of some sort.

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