GPG encryption helper for Dropbox
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The primary goal of this project is to provide Dropbox users with end-to-end strong encryption of a portion of their documents with a user experience which matches the normal Dropbox experience as closely as possible, including Dropbox's superb sharing experience.

The strategy is to create a watched folder, similar to the existing Dropbox folder, in which changed files get encrypted and copied into the Dropbox folder. Files updated in the Dropbox folder are decrypted and copied to the Lockbox folder when they're updated.

Your entire Dropbox is not encrypted with Lockbox. Only files stored in the special Lockbox directory are encrypted.


Dropbox provides an excellent service. Notably, its user experience is refined to the point where it Just Works (tm). This includes the single-user experience and when sharing a folder among collaborators.

The Dropbox architecture and team have gone to great lengths to make it extremely difficult for unauthorized individuals to read the files you store on their service.

However, it is still possible for individuals to read your files without your authorization. In particular, Dropbox employees have this ability even though they are limited by strict policy and access control mechanisms. By extension, your data could be read by other parties under a number of circumstances, including court order (public or secret), or through social engineering attacks on individuals who would otherwise have the legitimate ability to read your data. Indeed, Kholia and Węgrzyn, 2013 show it is (was) possible to hijack Dropbox folders on a LAN.

This makes some folks uncomfortable. The Lockbox software's goal is eliminate this uncertainty of who can read your data, while maintaining the Just Works (tm) semantics of regular Dropbox.

Other Strategies

The approach taken by this software isn't the only one you can take, but we think it has advantages over some of the other ways.

  • TrueCrypt volume in your Dropbox - has trouble with the cool sharing mechanism in DropBox
  • Manual encryption of your files - Lockbox more or less automates this
  • Alternate providers like SpiderOak - sharing isn't as dead simple as Dropbox


This is still a very early version. While some bits are configurable I wouldn't warrant this as generally user friendly yet.

Broadly, you'll need the following, in this order more or less:

  • python (I'm using 2.7.1 via pythonbrew on Mac OS X 10.6.8)
  • distribute and pip as described in the Prerequisites and Using the installer sections
  • On Windows, install PyYAML 3.10 from their installer
  • watchdog, on Mac OS you'll need the latest version from github. This is for the working FSEvents-based observer. The kqueue observer can easily get overwhelmed with many files in your Dropbox
  • m2crypto 0.21.1 with a patch
  • their dependencies (including Xcode for installing brew)

On Windows I built the C modules (m2crypto, etc) and installer using the (MinGW toolchain)[]. See the file for more details

A note on the Mac OS build environment: There's a good chance this'll work with the apple-shipped version of python. However, I haven't delved too deeply into making that happen, notably because the GPGTools builds weren't universal (i386 and x86_64) last time I worked with them, and's 2.7 seemed to ship x86_64 only. That's a TODO to cut down on having to build your own python. Probably pretty straight forward, but it isn't a priority for me right now.


First, install all the stuff as seen in Requirements above. is pretty much just a stub right now, and doesn't do much.

$ git clone git://
$ cd lockbox

Then, edit to change your default paths and keynames (see? told you it wasn't very configurable yet). Then run it.

$ python

Now, edit files inside your cleartext Lockbox directory (~/Lockbox by default). Folders (called "shares") in this directory map to folders in your Dropbox, with LOCKBOX- prepended to the name. When you edit files in these directories they'll be automatically encrypted and copied into the associated ciphertext Lockbox directory. For instance, ~/Lockbox/secretproject/stuff/information.txt will get encrypted to ~/Dropbox/LOCKBOX-secretproject/stuff/information.txt.

When friends share a new LOCKBOX- prefixed folder with you in Dropbox (using Dropbox's regular sharing mechanism) Lockbox will automatically detect that and begin decrypting its contents, assuming you and your friend have already exchanged encryption keys, and your friend has configured their copy of Lockbox to specify you as a recipient.

Currently, Lockbox does not start up automatically or run in the background. You'll need to start it manually and keep it running. It will, however, catch up when you run it next time.

Finally, the encryption scheme isn't necessarily upgrade friendly yet. What I mean by this is several things. First, it is currently not possible to have two or more people using a Dropbox share with Lockbox versions that don't match. Second, since the encryption and configuration formats have yet to stablize there is a chance that you'll have to delete the encrypted version (in Dropbox) completely upon a future Lockbox upgrade (though this absolutely does not mean you have to delete files in the Lockbox folder!)


In no particular order, though mostly from more important/likely to be implemented to less important/likely to be implemented.

  • Recipient key configuration in Lockbox/ShareName/.lockbox/config.yml
  • Daemonizing / automatic startup, with catch-up to account for changes made while Lockbox isn't running
  • Cut down on the amount of non-stock building of python, etc that is recommended above
  • addition of public key encryption
  • Encrypt filenames
  • Pretty OS-specific eye candy (system tray applet, menu bar applet, etc)

Random History Notes

  • Had a lot of trouble working with the combination of gpg, gpg-agent, passphrase callbacks and such, so I switched to m2crypto which uses the openssl libs for the cryptography operations
  • Switched from asymmetric keys to symmetric key encryption to simplify early version usability
  • The first version (0.0.0) I wrote was in Ruby, but I abandoned that for Python soon after the proof of concept was built due to what seemed like better OS-specific packaging and distribution capabilities in the Python world. YMMV.