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Dropbox responds to accusations its Mac desktop client hacks OS X security

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Dropbox responds to accusations its Mac desktop client hacks OS X security

Dropbox has responded to concerns about how it implements thedesktop client of its cloud storage service on Apple’s macOS platform,conceding it needs to do more to communicate howtheintegration functions and the permissions it’s asking for.

“Clearly we need to do a better job communicating about Dropbox’s OS integration. We ask for permissions once but don’t describe what we’re doing or why. We’ll fix that,”Dropbox’sBen Newhouse, from its desktop client team, told TechCrunch.

Concerns about Dropbox’s desktop clientcirculated on Hacker News and Twitter today, aftertwo recent posts on an Apple help blog detailedwhat the writer dubbed OS X security “hacks” by Dropbox.In one of the AppleHelpWriter posts Dropbox is described as “using a sql attack on the tcc database to circumvent Apple’s authorization policy”.

And whileallegationsthat Dropbox was creating a spoof dialogue box to phish users’ passwords proved to beincorrect, critics continued to slateitsimplementation of an official OS X security dialogue box that they said appeared designed to mislead users into handing over their admin passwords in order to grant Dropboxroot access to the systemviathe Mac’s Accessibility permissions list.

To clarify: It is a legitimate OS X dialog with misleading text + they hack around the OS security for accessibility https://t.co/Nvb3mvMIDr

― toto (@mrtoto) September 9, 2016

Addressing criticisms about the scope of the permissions the client requires, Newhouse said: “We only ask for privileges we actively use ― but unfortunately some of the permissions aren’t as granular as we would like.

“We use accessibility APIs for the Dropbox badge (Office integrations) and other integrations (finding windows & other UI interactions).”

“We use elevated access for where the built-in FS APIs come up short. We’ve been working with Apple to eliminate this dependency and we should have what we need soon,” he added.

Newhouse also asserted that Dropbox is not viewing or storing Mac users’ admin passwords.

“We never see or store your admin password. The dialog box you see is a native OS X API (i.e. made by Apple),” he said.

As to why Dropboxneeds admin privileges in the first place, he said:“We check and set privileges on startup ― the intent was to make sure Dropbox is functioning properly, works across OS updates, etc. The intent was never to frustrate people or override their choices.”

“We’re all jumping on this. We’ll do a better job here and we’re sorry for any anger, frustration or confusion we’ve caused,” headded.

However the company’sjustificationfor utilizingthe Accessibilityroute to gain root access did little to impress some critics.

Responding to Newhouse’s statementoneHacker News commenter, riobard, wrote: “At this point you need to follow up with convincing technical details of why Dropbox needs the circumvention to counter the accusation and rebuild the damaged trust.

“The reason for needing Accessibility API listed in your response is pretty vague, especially for those Mac users not having Microsoft products tainting their systems. I’ve deleted Dropbox from my Mac for now. I’m not installing it back till there’s reasonable explanation and remedies.”

Another Hacker News commenter,kybernetyk, called outNewhouse’s phrasingabout “granular permissions” as a “nice euphemism for ‘catch all’ permissions… “.

“Now a malware can target your scripts and get a free ride to all your system yay,” added partycoder, another Hacker News user.

For any Dropbox Mac client users unconvinced about its modus operandi and/or concerned about the security implications of allowing it root access,AppleHelpWriter has detailed a process for removing Dropboxfrom OS X’s Accessibility preferences here .


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