How it works
You provide PasswordMaker at least two pieces of information: a master password -- that one, favorite password you like -- and a text string that is unique to that particular password. For web based accounts, this will usually be the URL of the website requiring the password. In fact, this is the default for such sites, although it can be changed if desired. For internet applications without URLs, such as instant messaging - or some other password that you want to generate using PasswordMaker that is not internet related at all - you can make up any text you like, e.g., "aolinstantmessenger.com", "my-aol-im", or "MyBank_PIN").
Through the magic of your favorite one-way hash algorithm (Passwordmaker currently supports all of these), PasswordMaker uses the master password and the URL/text string) that you provided, plus the account settings as modified by you, to calculate what is known as a digital fingerprint - or hash - which can then be used as your password for the website.
Although one-way hash algorithms have a number of interesting characteristics, the one capitalized on by PasswordMaker is that the resulting hash (password) "does not reveal anything about the input (your master password) that was used to generate it."
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!
Security features offered by the Browser Extension version of PasswordMaker - such as the ability to automatically insert both usernames and the generated passwords into a web sites' username and password fields, helps protect you from key-loggers and/or trojan horses that some "Black Hats" use to try to steal passwords. For more details, visit the FAQ.
What About Portability?
For times when you must use an unsupported browser or can't install the extension for some other reason, there's an online version which mimicks the extension and works in all browsers new and old. No downloads or installations are required.
Lastly, there is a J2ME version in the works for mobile phones and PDAs, although there is little happening at the moment. If you are interested in seeing this implemented more quickly and have the skills to help - or are willing to help sponsor its development - please add a post in the user forums and someone will get in touch with you to discuss terms.
I'm interested - where do I start?
This is simple - decide which edition (listed under 'editions' in the menu on the left) makes the most sense for you to use, and click the appropriate link.