How to automatically clear the Bitwarden clipboard for better security

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Bitwarden has been my favorite open-source password manager for years. Not only is it highly secure, but it’s also user-friendly and available for all platforms (Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and web). Bitwarden has a number of tricks up its sleeve but there’s one particular trick you might not even know you need or want.

That trick is the ability to clear the clipboard. You see, when you copy a password from Bitwarden it automatically copies to your desktop clipboard. Think about that for a second. Here’s the scenario:

Also: The best password managers to save you from login hassle

  1. Open Bitwarden.
  2. Locate the password you need.
  3. Copy password.
  4. Paste the password as needed.
  5. Step away from your desktop.
  6. Someone sits at your desk.
  7. That someone opens a clipboard manager to view the last password.
  8. That same someone opens a document and hits Ctrl+v and pastes the password so they can view it.

Leaving those entries saved to the clipboard can lead to disaster. And if you have a clipboard manager on your desktop, someone could view a listing of all the passwords you’ve copied. Of course, the next challenge for that person would be to know what app or service each password is associated with…but you get the idea.

Fortunately, Bitwarden has a feature to help out with that issue. The feature allows you to set the amount of time to expire before the clipboard is cleared. For this, you can set a time as short as 5 seconds, as long as 5 minutes, or never. What I would suggest is to set it to clear after enough time has passed such that you can successfully paste the password you’ve copied. For some 5 seconds is plenty of time, whereas others might require a minute or so. 

Either way, with this feature you don’t have to worry about anyone happening upon the passwords you’ve copied from Bitwarden. 

The only caveat to this feature is that some clipboard managers might not have the capability to dump the password from memory. For instance, CopyQ (on Linux), does dump the Bitwarden entry after the set time but (for whatever reason) it retains a duplicate copy of it in the history. Some clipboard managers allow you to blacklist software so passwords from a particular app aren’t cached. Because of such issues, you might have to either remove your clipboard manager or use one that works more seamlessly with Bitwarden’s ClearClipboard feature. 

Also: How to enable Bitwarden biometric unlock (and why you should)

With that warning out of the way, let’s see how to configure Bitwarden so it clears your clipboard within a reasonable time.

Set the Bitwarden clipboard clear time

What you’ll need:  The only things you’ll need for this are the Bitwarden app and a valid Bitwarden account. This feature is available for both desktop and mobile apps. I’ll demonstrate this on the Desktop app, but know that the option in the mobile app is found in Settings > Options. Beyond that, it’s configured the same way as it is on the desktop.

Open the Bitwarden app on your desktop. Once open, unlock your vault.

Also: How to export your Bitwarden vault for safekeeping

From the Bitwarden window, click File > Settings.

The Bitwarden file menu.

This should be an all-too-familiar menu for Bitwarden users.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Scroll down until you see the Clear clipboard entry under Preferences. By default, the time will be set to Never. Click the Clear clipboard drop-down and select the shortest time you believe will work for you. Once you’ve set the time, scroll down and click Close.

The Bitwarden Clear clipboard option.

Make sure to configure this in such a way that you have enough time to paste the item, but not much more than that.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Testing the new clear time

Go to one of your vault items and click the copy password icon. Wait for the allotted time you’ve set and then try and paste the item to a document or note. The Ctrl+v keyboard shortcut should result in no password being pasted into the document.

Also: How to protect and secure your password manager

Remember, you must consider if your operating system has a clipboard manager. If it does, you’ll want to look into whether or not you can configure it so that when Bitwarden clears the cache, the clipboard manager also clears any saved entries. If there’s no way to do that, it’s time to look for a different clipboard manager.





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