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Dropbox plans to drop encrypted Linux filesystems in November

Penguinistas mobilise against decision to support only EXT4

Updated Linux users are calling on Dropbox to reverse a decision to trim its filesystem support to unencrypted EXT4 only.

The company's supported file system list, here, is missing some formats – including various encrypted Linux filesystems.

Until that list was revised, Dropbox said it supported NTFS, HFS, EXT4, and APFS on Linux; as the new requirements makes clear, Linux users will only be able to run unencrypted EXT4.

In this forum thread, Dropbox explains: “A supported file system is required as Dropbox relies on extended attributes (X-attrs) to identify files in the Dropbox folder and keep them in sync. We will keep supporting only the most common file systems that support X-attrs, so we can ensure stability and a consistent experience.”

With 240 comments in the thread so far, it seems the decision has been badly received by people encrypting their Linux drives. Here's one example:

On my machine I'm running the BTRFS file system where the dropbox folder is stored - BTRFS is the standard default file system for ubuntu system partitions and supports the mentioned X-attrs attributes. On top of BTRFS there's an encryption layer running, ecryptfs, which also is Ubuntu default if home folder encryption is activated. Will the new desktop client solely run on EXT4, or will it check for if the file system where the dropbox folder is stored supports extended attributes?

Another commenter using LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup) for full-disk encryption was angrier: “Yes, I'm running LUKS encryption on top of my BTRFS partition, where I have my Dropbox folder. And I still don't see a valid and a proper reason why this configuration shouldn't work.

“I'm definitely not gonna re-format my whole Linux just because of Dropbox - there are reasons why I'm on BTRFS. I'd like to hear some proper engineering explanation why suddenly xattr is required now and why only EXT4 is supported. Because I really don't think there's any. This just seems like a lot of product/marketing crap. There are reasons why VFS exists in Linux”.

Another response pointed out that users might not have an option about their filesystem: “I'm running LUKS/ecryptfs on top of EXT4 as is mandated by a corporate security policy for portable devices”.

Encryption of sensitive data is also a big part of European companies' GDPR compliance.

And, of course, there's the obvious detail that Linux users can be simply pigheaded about their decisions, as user “Swâmi Petarames” wrote: “Have you ever heard of Linux users changing their mind about their technical choices for OS or filesystem juste because the XYZ application is not available there or stops supporting this environment?”

With the change due to become final in November, there's at least plenty of time for Linux users to lobby Dropbox to change its mind. ®

Update: A Dropbox spokesperson has been in touch to correct a detail, saying: "your article mentions Dropbox doesn't support encrypted versions of ext4. It would be accurate to say that Dropbox will not support ecryptfs, however it will support full disk encryption."

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