If you're like most people, you have a few passwords that you use over and over again on many different websites. You know this isn't secure, yet you do it anyway. Why? Because it's difficult to remember a unique password for each and every web site that requires one.
Maybe you do use unique passwords, and get around the problem of remembering them by storing them in a spreadsheet or other file. Maybe you even use one of the many password managers that are available. But now you've centralized your passwords and access to them becomes difficult while at work, a friend's computer, or a public internet terminal. You can't get to your passwords without carrying them around or publishing them on the internet. Some people even carry a USB keychain with their passwords wherever they go. How inconvenient. And publishing them on the internet? Yikes! We need not even mention the security risks inherent with that solution. Even if you trust the company storing the passwords, you can be sure every hacker in the world is drooling over the prospect of accessing their database (Like the LastPass break in of May, 2011 LastPass Announcement).
PasswordMaker solves all of these issues. It is a small, lightweight, free, open-source tool for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, iPhone, Opera, PHP, Windows, OS/X, Linux, Flock, Yahoo! Widgets, Android, Python, and many other platforms & systems. It creates unique, secure passwords that are very easy for you to retrieve but no one else. Nothing is stored anywhere, anytime, so there's nothing to be hacked, lost, or stolen. PasswordMaker has been around since about 2003 and so is a mature, stable, popular solution.
How It Works
Warning - technical jargon in this section!
You provide PasswordMaker two pieces of information: a "master password" -- that one, single password you like -- and the URL of the website requiring a password. Through the magic of one-way hash algorithms, PasswordMaker calculates a message digest, also known as a digital fingerprint, which can be used as your password for the website. Although one-way hash algorithms have a number of interesting characteristics, the one capitalized by PasswordMaker is that the resulting fingerprint (password) does "not reveal anything about the input that was used to generate it." 1. In other words, if someone has one or more of your generated passwords, it is computationally infeasible for him to derive your master password or to calculate your other passwords. Computationally infeasible means even computers like this won't help!
What About Portability?
For times when you must use one of the rare platforms to which PasswordMaker hasn't been ported, or are using a system where you can't install any software, there's an online version which mimics the extension and works in all web browsers new and old. No downloads or installations are required.
The old PasswordMaker website can be found here. Please note it is no longer maintained but is present for archival purposes.