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What is Dashlane and How to Use it?

Dashlane got off to a very good start with us, by being arguably the shiniest password manager that we have yet reviewed. It looks gorgeous, and works as slick as slick does on the desktop: capturing passwords, auto-logging us into websites, and filling out forms for us in as friction-free a manner as we could hope for. Unfortunately, a somewhat worrying privacy policy combined with very poor Android integration tarnished our initial enthusiasm, although iOS users are likely to be less annoyed.

Dashlane Features

As with most commercial password managers, Dashlane works on a freemium model. Fortunately (and unlike some of its competition), Dashlane’s pricing policy is very simple: free users can use all of Dashlane’s features on a single device, while Dashlane Premium users can sync passwords across multiple devices.

Dashlane Premium costs $39.99 per year, and subscribers can also access various cloud-based features (such as account backup, secure sharing, and web access to passwords), and are entitled to priority email support.

A 30 day free trial of is available for Dashlane Premium. Features of Dashlane include:

  • Auto-generation of secure passwords
  • Auto form completion
  • Import existing passwords from your browser
  • No password recovery (good for security)
  • Security breach alerts
  • Secure notes
  • Two-Factor Authentication
  • Password sharing (Premium only)

Is Dashlane secure?

We appreciate the fact that Dashlane makes a clearly written Whitepaper available that details the encryption and security measures it uses.

Both the desktop client and the mobile app are exceptionally pretty, with the Android app fully implementing material design.

Dashlane is a closed source commercial product, so we just have to trust that the company is above board in its claims. Those who (understandably) prefer using open source programs should instead consider FOSS password manager KeePass.

Those willing to trust a closed source product will be pleased to know that Dashlane implements strong encryption and security.

Passwords are protected by strong AES-256 encryption, with a cryptographic key is used stored in RAM for easy access. This key is generated from your Master Password using the OpenSSL PKCS5_PBKDF2_HMAC_SHA1 hash function, and salted using 10,000 iterations.

Communications between the Dashlane Application and the Dashlane servers is via HTTPS.

All passwords are protected behind a Master Password, which not stored by Dashlane in any way. This means that you are screwed if you forget the Master Password, but any form of password recovery option would introduce weaknesses in Dashlane’s security, so we approve of this approach.

Dashlane supports Two-Factor authentication of new devices by default (which is good), by sending you a warning email whenever a new device tries to connect with our account. You can also link your Dashlane account to a Google Authenticator app on your mobile.

Yet again we accept why a simple password manager needs so many permissions, although Dashlane does explain why it asks for these

We also can’t say that we are particularly thrilled by the following clause ion Dashlane’s privacy policy:

We collect technical and usage data to analyze how our product performs for you, and for us to improve the quality of Dashlane. This data is is (sic) completely anonymized except for gender, birth year and zip code, and cannot IN ANY WAY be linked to your individual personal information – not even the email address you registered with us.”

If someone knows your “gender, birth year and zip code”, you are hardly completely anonymous, making any such claim very misleading! In fact, in 2000 security researcher Latanya Sweeney demonstrated that that 87 percent of all Americans could be uniquely identified using only three bits of information: ZIP code, birthdate, and sex! It has also been shown time and again that so-called anonymization” techniques are “broken”.

Color us unimpressed.

How to use Dashlane on desktop

Dashlane is available on the desktop for Windows and Mac OSX (but not Linux.) We tested the Windows version. Browser add-ons are available for Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer (Windows) or Safari (Mac OSX).

Dashlane can import passwords from the main browsers, or from other password managers using an exported standard CSV file (most password managers support this, although we had to mess around converting our exported KeePass 2.0 passwords into .csv format in Excel.)

When you first start to use Dashlane, the app provides a great tutorial

Passwords can be easily managed from within the main client. In addition to storing passwords, you can store secure notes, bank card details, online receipts, and personal information for form-fills. ID’s allows you store information listed on your driver's license, ID card, passport etc.

If just one password is stored for a  website, Dashlane will login automatically, with no further input required

If more than one login is stored, Dashlane will offer you a choice of logins

Dashlane allows users to securely share passwords with other Dashlane users (Premium only)

One of Dashlane’s more innovative features is the ability to add an emergency contact who can be granted access to your passwords in the event of an emergency (such as your unfortunate demise!)

Dashlane works seamlessly on the desktop. There is no ugly additional browser bar-  it just logs you into websites and fills in forms automatically (or asks which logins required if multiple logins are available.) Dashlane is also one of the prettiest password managers we have seen.

How to use Dashlane on mobile

Mobile apps are available for Android, iOS and Apple Watch. We tested the Android version.

The Dashlane app provides easy access to your passwords, form-fill data, and the standard Dashlane features…

…such as secure password generation. Login to the Dashlane app can be speeded up using the fingerprint scanner on compatible phones, but (unlike LastPass), the fingerprint scanner cannot be used to login into web pages

Like many mobile password managers, the Dashlane app includes its own browser, within which it saves and fills in password etc. very well. This bowser is fine, but is nowhere near as fully featured as a “proper” mobile browser such as Firefox or Chrome

There is no in-browser support for external browsers, which means that if you prefer to use a more fully-featured browser, you have to go through the cumbersome process of logging in to the Dashlane app, finding your password, and then cut & pasting the login and password (separately) into your regular browser. Ugh!

Dashlane does (in theory) support “one-tap” auto-login for apps (not within external browsers), but we found this to be a very hit and miss affair (more miss than hit). Dashlane also claims to have partnered with Swiftkey Keyboard to allow login to apps directly from the keyboard, but we completely failed to get this feature to work. We are also concerned that even if you can get it to work, this would mean sharing password input information with Swiftkey

In addition to an embedded browser, the iOS version of Dashlane does allow you fill data directly into Safari (using an extension). This makes Dashlane a much more attractive proposition for iOS users than Android users. As with the Android app, TouchID is supported only for unlocking the Dashlane app.

Conclusion

We have noticed before while writing these password manager reviews that most work very well on the desktop, so it is how they work on mobile devices that sets them apart. This is never more true than with Dashlane, which on the desktop provides arguably our favorite experience thanks to a super-slick interface, and seamless browser integration.

We are therefore very disappointed with Dashlane’s Android app, due to it lacking any integration with external browsers (plus sundry other annoyances). It should be noted, however, that due to full integration with Safari in iOS, iDevice users are likely to have a much more positive experience.

This still leaves the problems of slow support and, most critically for us, a deeply worrying privacy policy…

Written by: Douglas Crawford

I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. You can now follow me on Twitter - @douglasjcrawf.

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