First, thanks everybody for participating here in the Community. Your feedback is extremely valuable to us and the future development of Boxcryptor. When we released our new Boxcryptor app for iOS with a new "Files app first" approach back in May, Boxcryptor has been the first cloud storage app to perform this radical change. And we believe many more will follow our lead in the future. However, one of the biggest concerns raised by our users was the missing App Protection feature which we had to let go due being "Files app first" and not having our own file browser anymore.
When writing software for a platform (e.g. an operating system like iOS or maybe a social network like Facebook), third-party developers can use the power and possibilities of said platform - but at the same time, they are also constrained by its restrictions. In case of the Files app, we can only integrate Boxcryptor in ways Apple wants us to. Listing directory contents? Uploading and downloading files while transparently and automatically encrypting and decrypting them? That's all fine and matches pretty well with Apple's intentions. Adding any kind of additional protection to access files and folders with explicit authentication? Unfortunately, that's not so cool and Apple does not provide for such a use case. As of today, the Files app does not offer dedicated interfaces for third-party apps to implement any kind of additional protection when accessing files and folders.
When we made the decision for being "Files app first", we knew about this restriction but the advantages outweighed by far (tighter integration, easier and better usability, less confusion, and much more). And by not having to write and maintain our own file browser, we can focus the scarce resources of our small team on our core competency and mission: securing files in the cloud using end-to-end-encryption.
Due to privacy reasons, our applications do not contain any of the common trackers used widely in almost all other apps. We do not know exactly how many and which users are using which features and how often - and we really do not want to know it. While it's great for our user's privacy, it can sometimes be a challenge for product decisions. In this case, we underestimated the importance of an additional protection beyond the industry-leading device protections in iPhones and iPads for a significant number of users who are e.g. sharing their personal device with other family members. We failed here and did not properly align our priorities with the priorities of our users.
But "listening to our users" is not just empty talk for us - we mean it seriously. Based on the feedback we received, we made it a top priority. We went back to the drawing board and set out to find a solution which meets expectations for additional protection in the Files app as well as requirements regarding the usability and security - under the constraints of technical feasibility provided by the Files app.
After countless discussions and experiments, I'm very happy to announce that Boxcryptor for iOS will include App Protection's successor called Files Protection - a new feature for all users with the need for additional protection within the Files app. With Files Protection enabled, accessing files and folders in the Files app requires a custom Boxcryptor passcode which is different from your device passcode. Additionally, optional unlock via Touch ID or Face ID is possible when supported by your device. Boxcryptor automatically locks after a certain timespan without activity in the Files app or immediately when locked manually.
However, while Files Protection restricts access to your files and folders for additional protection, it is not a replacement for a device passcode and proper device protection. Due to technical limitations and the fundamental functionality of the Files app, the following restrictions apply when using Files Protection:
- Opened files are not be protected.
- Files shared with third-party apps may not be protected. We strongly recommend to only use third-party apps which have your trust. You can also use the built-in QuickLook feature to preview files directly in the Files app.
- Snapshot images of the Files app in the App Switcher are not protected.
- Recents, Search and Favorites can no longer be used for files and folders in the Boxcryptor location.
We are closely watching the development of the Files app and whether Apple will improve the conditions to provide additional protection within the Files app in the future. Unfortunately, security and usability is more often a trade-off than it should be, but we believe Files Protection is a great choice for everybody who needs additional protection in the Files app.
Boxcryptor for iOS with Files Protection will be released within the next few days. If you want to give it an early try, feel free to join our TestFlight program and download it already today:
Boxcryptor for iOS with Files Protection is now officially released!
Get the latest version here: https://www.boxcryptor.com/en/download/?platform=ios
And as always, we're looking forward to your feedback.