Apple's Mac App Store Sandboxing Requirement Gaining Renewed Scrutiny as Deadline Approaches

Last November, we reported on Apple's plan to require all Mac App Store apps to be sandboxed, a move that would increase security by preventing apps from overstepping their bounds should they be affected by malware but which could hamper the functionality of certain apps. The requirement had been scheduled to go into effect in November but was pushed back to a March 1 implementation date as apparently sought to give developers more time to digest and prepare for the change.


With the implementation date now just a few weeks away, The Wall Street Journal again takes a look at the impact of the changes.

Sandboxing is fairly common in the mobile world, where Apple, Google Inc.'s Android and others have long required it as a safety measure to prevent an app from compromising other parts of the system. But some developers say sandboxing could cripple desktop software, which is often more sophisticated.

Mac developer Mark Munz, of Vancouver, Wash., says to comply with Apple's new rules, he has to remove key features of his text-reformatting app TextSoap that integrate with other programs.

As a workaround, he's working on a "helper app" that Mac App Store users could download separately to restore the extra functionality. "It sort of defeats the purpose of what sandboxing is about," says Mr. Munz, who is president of Unmarked Software LLC.

The report also cites Flexibits co-founder Kent Sutherland, whose Fantastical calendaring app would be subject to sandboxing limitations on its ability to sync and import data from other applications. Apple's position that it will allow access to certain features only on a "temporary" basis leaves developers such as Sutherland uncertain about whether their apps will be able to continue to function in the future.

Apple notes that it is continuing to work with developers to increase the security of their applications under the new sandboxing requirements, with a source noting that "most" apps will not require any changes to meet the new policy. But as we noted in our earlier report, a number of high-profile apps that provide systemwide functionality may have to jump through new hoops to obtain approval for their continued functionality, and developers report that they are still finding bugs in the sandboxing procedures that leave uncertainty about just what is going to happen come March 1.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
111 months ago

*shrug* just pull the apps that's not updated from the mac store. It's not like this was just sprung on developers.


You don't get it do you..? Sandboxing is currently a half baked idea riddled with bugs that makes it difficult, if not impossible to implement features that a lot of people consider essential to their apps.

Apps I use every day like Transmit from Panic and BBEdit from Barebones can't work to their full extent in a sandbox and are therefore blocked from the Mac App Store.

By way of an example, FTP apps are impossible under the sandboxing rules because apps can't browse the file system arbitrarily.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 months ago
At least it only applies to apps on the App Store and not just a general thing for the OS. If you want to install an app that runs no holds barred you still can, just not from the App Store. If there comes a day when that isn't the case is when I'll take issue.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 months ago
all kind of window management applications (moom, bettersnaptool, optimal layout etc.) also are not sandboxable.

All kind of apps that need to send mouse movements or mouseclicks to the system are not sandboxable.

All kind of apps that need to control arbitrary applications in some way are not sandboxable.

All kind of apps that need to send keyboard shortcuts (e.g. for pasting text or s.th. like this) are not sandboxable.

Apps that make use of the media keys on the keyboard are not sandboxable (or will lose this functionality)

This list can be continued for quite a while... you see sandboxing will eliminate many applications from the Mac App Store. Especially utilities. Those apps probably won't be pulled from the store, but their old, possibly insecure versions will stay there and the developers won't be able to update them, even if they'd like to. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of users will be affected by this. Also Apple provides no way to migrate App Store customers to non - App Store versions.

Also the licenses only allow the use of iCloud for App Store apps like nuckinfutz said. This creates a real two class system and I think it'll hurt the mac platform...
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 months ago
Welcome to the iOSification of Mac OS X. It's like watching a bunch of lemmings get pushed off a cliff. Except they all honestly believe they're doing it out of choice and that it's the best thing for them.

I refuse to buy MAS applications.

Why?

Because restrictions such as this "sandboxing" that are really just half-assed implementations by Apple hurt applications more then they improve them. You can't seriously tell me with a straight face that I should accept limited and broken applications over their unhindered and free counterparts sold directly from the vendor.

There is NO REASON why Xcode shouldn't come with an "entitlements" editor that allows you to pick and chose what system resources you need and how. This should get baked into the *.app bundle, and when a developer submits an application to Apple, the reviewers can decide if the application really needs what the developer said it does and if not- they can further discuss the issues with the developer prior to approval (for example, there's no reason why a game would need access to everything in ~/, but a search utility might).

Really, there's a thousand different ways Apple could have gone about this. The above is just off the top of my head.

But no, they decide to lock everyone into a strict set of granular choices, most of which are so restricting they're virtually useless. Ring a bell with iOS multitasking anyone?

I'm sure I'll have hoards of people running to Apple's defence here saying that the limited and crippled entitlement system Apple is forcing on everyone is "for your own protection".

The truth here is that there is NO REASON why we can't have a Sandboxing implementation that works well, is secure, and can handle anything developers might need. Except for Apple's own laziness and arrogance regarding their own decisions these days.

-SC
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 months ago
@zorinlynx they do have different "entitlements" for different types of applications. The problem is, that there are too few entitlements to cover all usecases, and so many apps are not sandboxable with the current sandboxing technology. So the apple solution is to just not allow further updates for those apps which can't work with the few given entitlements .

Developers can file bugreports / feature requests but often you just get the answer that the technology you need for your application is theoretically able to workaround the purpose of the sandbox and so they won't allow it....
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
111 months ago
There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about what sandboxing really is. I recommend everyone read this article before complaining.

http://arstechnica.com/apple/reviews/2011/07/mac-os-x-10-7.ars/9#sandboxing
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Kuo: Global iPhone Shipments Could Decline Up to 30% If Apple Forced to Remove WeChat From App Store [Updated x2]

Sunday August 9, 2020 10:17 pm PDT by
In a worst-case scenario, Apple's annual global iPhone shipments could decline by 25–30% if it is forced to remove WeChat from its App Stores around the world, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo viewed by MacRumors. The removal could occur due to a recent executive order aiming to ban U.S. transactions with WeChat and its parent company Tencent. Kuo lays out...

Google Maps Debuts New Apple Watch App and CarPlay Features

Monday August 10, 2020 9:16 am PDT by
Google today announced the launch of several features for Google Maps on Apple products, including new CarPlay functionality and a new Google Maps app that works on Apple Watch. The new Google Maps app for Apple Watch works similarly to the iOS app, allowing Apple Watch owners to get directions for a car, bike, public transit, or on foot. The app supports estimated arrival times and...

2020 iMac Teardown Reveals Internal Changes and Similarities

Saturday August 8, 2020 12:44 pm PDT by
A teardown video, shared by OWC, reveals the internal changes in the new 2020 27-inch iMac. The 2020 27-inch iMac was announced earlier this week with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, a 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, higher fidelity speakers, and...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...

Apple Believes This German Cycling Path Logo Infringes on Its Own Logo

Wednesday May 1, 2019 9:51 am PDT by
Apple recently objected to the logo of a new German cycling path in an appeal filed with the German Patent and Trademark Office, according to German outlets General-Anzeiger Bonn and Westdeutscher Rundfunk. Apple reportedly takes issue with the logo's green leaf and supposed "bitten" right side, attributes the company believes are too similar to its own logo. The logo, registered with the ...

Supposed iPhone 12 Display Unit Leaks

Thursday August 6, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
An image supposedly of an iPhone 12 display unit has been shared online by leaker "Twitter user Mr. White". Compared to images of an iPhone 11 Pro display piece, this new unit has a reoriented display connector, reaching up from the bottom of the display, rather than from the left-hand side on iPhone 11 Pro. This may be due to the logic board moving to the other side of the device. A...

Foxconn Reportedly Begins Seasonal Hiring Spree for iPhone 12 Production

Monday August 10, 2020 7:03 am PDT by
Apple's largest manufacturing partner Foxconn has begun its seasonal hiring spree to assist with iPhone 12 production, offering employees who recruit qualified applicants up to a 9,000 yuan bonus, according to Chinese media reports. As usual, Foxconn needs as many hands on deck as possible at its factory in Zhengzhou, China to assist with mass production of the upcoming iPhones. Apple is...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

New 27-Inch iMac's Storage Affixed to Logic Board, 4TB and 8TB Configurations Have Expansion Connector

Friday August 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
Following a report from German blog iFun.de that claimed the new 27-inch iMac's flash storage is soldered to the logic board, MacRumors has obtained additional information in an internal document for Apple technicians. In the document, Apple says that the flash storage is indeed affixed to the logic board and cannot be removed. However, for the 4TB and 8TB configurations, Apple says that a...