Enumerating Dropbox Resources


Ok, first order of business, I love
Dropbox. If you are unfamiliar with Dropbox it is a popular cloud based syncing / storage / sharing application for your files. It allows you to store files, roll back changes, etc. You can get more familiar with them by visiting their sitehttps://www.getdropbox.com

Now that I am done singing the praises of Dropbox, it’s time to get to the nitty gritty. This issue isn’t necessarily devastating for Dropbox, but could lead to some larger issues with other cloud based providers. The reason I am writing about this issue is because I think it can aid other individuals in the design of their applications. Let’s face it, cloud based applications and storage aren’t going anywhere.

What You Should Notice

One of the first things you should notice after installing Dropbox is that it sets up some files and folder structure for you.


A few of the folders are
Documents, Photos, and Public. A couple of files that show up are This is your Dropbox.txt and if you have installed the iPhone app you get the iPhone intro.pdf. Your Public folder is where you can put files that you want to share with via a public URL.


So by default you get a Public folder with a public file that is shared called “Top Secret.txt”. If you go to the Dropbox menu you can obtain a link for the public file that has the following structure:

{acct number}/Top%20Secret.txt

So now you have a known resource  with a known location. By simply requesting this resource and changing the account number you can enumerate through valid accounts. In doing this it will become apparent relatively quickly that account numbers are sequential. You would also notice that most people do not delete any of pre-installed default files even though they are unnecessary. These files are Dropbox’s way of communicating with you about what the folder should be for or about something the application does.

It is fairly simple to enumerate through account numbers and come up with a list of valid users, you could do this in just a couple of lines of
Python code:
#!/usr/bin/env python
import httplib
f =
open("dropbox_accts.txt", "w")
for num in range(1440000, 1450000):
request_string =
conn =
request("GET", request_string)
req = conn.
if req.status == 200:

What this does is enumerate through account numbers from 1440000 to 1450000, and if there is a return on Top Secret.txt, it records the number in to a file called dropbox_accts.txt.

Why This Is A Problem

This is a problem for multiple reasons. First of all, it allows an attacker to determine valid accounts on the system. This gives an attacker a starting point for an attack on an account. Another thing to note is that it shows accounts are created sequentially which could lead to other issues.

Working on account enumeration it would be possible for an attacker or someone tracking Dropbox to determine how many new users they have per a certain period of time just by starting where they left off with their previous enumeration activities.

The issue might allow an attacker to try to obtain some information about a particular user through sifting through their public files, if they were guessed. Yes, an attacker would have to guess the name of a valid file but we as humans tend to name files descriptively, so it may be easier than it seems. There is no randomness attached to the filename /URI that would deter this type of activity. After sifting through this data it may be possible to determine the name of the individual who owns the account. Another thing you might find from this activity is an email address associated with the login of the account. If they were to obtain the email they would have the login (email), account number, and the person’s real name. It would not completely out of the question to find something like resume.doc in a user’s Public folder. This is a lot more than an attacker should have.

Now this shouldn’t be a huge deal because it is a “public” folder, it should be assumed that everything in there could be accessed by anyone, but people don’t always make the best choices when it comes to sharing. Many people who use Dropbox use this folder to share things with their friends, not the entire world.

Probably most important, is that they are using known resources and locations. This can be a particularly bad issue for cloud based applications due to their public nature. Every Dropbox account has several folders set up by default along with several files added. These rarely get changed and just get utilized by users. Giving an attacker known resources and locations goes a long way to a successful attack. It allows an attacker to gauge success or failure of a given attack and gives them ready-made resources on which to focus their attacks.

Dropbox uses these files in their private directory structure as well, which opens the doors for some interesting possibilities. I have not really dug in to their API or too much in to their web interface to really say where this might be an issue, but the groundwork can be done in relatively small period of time.

Without having any kind of knowledge how the back end of Dropbox works, it’s hard to tell whether any of the information (ie Account Number) that can be be enumerated can be used to attack user files at rest. It may be hugely important or totally innocuous. I am assuming they have probably thought of this, but you never know.

What’s The Takeaway

People designing cloud based applications and storage should be aware that creating items with known locations could increase their attack surface by giving attackers something to work with. This should be kept to a minimum. Users should be defining the structure of their storage and setting up names for their resources. If you need to communicate with users, it should be done in a message format vs leaving a standard named file in a known location.

Public resources, even though they are public should have some form of randomness added to their resource locations. This way, it is not extremely easy for an attacker to enumerate resources and gain information about the application and its users. It would be a better idea to take the approach that 
Flickr does with it’s randomized URLs for photos. That way it is not easy to map a resource to a given user or account number.

When numbers associated with accounts are exposed, they should take on some form of randomness or there should at least not be any exposed method that would allow someone to enumerate through them easily.

Threat modeling should be done on the application during the design phase allowing for the identification of issues before they get worked in to production. Always think about how the application could be abused. You would think this would be second nature by now, but so many organizations are not doing this.

If you are Dropbox user you should delete the default files that are created by Dropbox, especially the Top Secret.txt that is in your Public folder.

In Closing

In closing not extremely devastating on the surface for Dropbox, but definitely food for thought for anyone working on the design of cloud based applications. Issues like this are definitely not isolated to Dropbox. I wrote a tool about a year and a half ago (that I had forgotten about by the way) for pulling valid users and data out of Apple’s
MobileMe service. An issue that still exists to this day. Cloud providers need to be thinking about this stuff in the design phase because it is hard to make changes after deployment.