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Mountain Lion Update: 10.8.1 is out today

Apple has released the first update to Mountain Lion, version 10.8.1, as of today. So if you’re one of the more cautious folks who never install the “dot zero” update, now’s your chance to pull the trigger. If you already made the leap, you can go to the Mac App Store and get your update from the Updates tab, or you can use the manual installer if you prefer. Either way, you’ll need to restart when it’s done.

This is an update of particular importance to 1Password users because it includes a fix for the Safari crashing bug we’ve seen with Safari 6, Mountain Lion, and our Safari browser extension.

As with all system updates, usual disclaimers apply here. You’ll need to make sure your other applications (and in our case, browser extensions) are up to date, and it’s always a good idea to have a backup of some sort before you click install, because you never know.

1Password was born ready for Mountain Lion

Mountain LionAs you may have heard, Apple has a new kitty called Mountain Lion on the way, due out sometime in July. Apple’s site naturally brags about things like “over 200+ new features” and “more, better, faster,” but I’m sure your top question is: “but will 1Password be ready?!”

The short and sweet answer is: like Terry Benedict1Password was born ready. Ok, maybe’s that’s going a bit far. I mean, the first version of 1Password, released over six years ago, was actually born and raised on OS X 10.4 Tiger and missing a vowel. And a consonant.

So let me try this again: as of recent updates to both the Mac App Store and website versions, 1Password is ready for Mountain Lion and even Gatekeeper, a new OS X feature that gives you more control over what apps your Mac can run. If you want to learn more about Gatekeeper, our Chief Defender Against the Dark Arts penned a couple of posts to give you a general overview and more details on this important OS X addition in Mountain Lion.

Of course, your decision to upgrade to a major new OS release probably rests on a number of other apps being ready as well. After all, not every app can be ready on day one, so don’t be afraid to do a little homework before taking the plunge. But as far as AgileBits factors in, you can rest assured that 1Password been ready for Mountain Lion for a while now!

Do you know where your software comes from? Gatekeeper will help

Mountain LionYou trust us to provide you tools that keeps some of your very valuable secrets safe. Part of that trust means that, when you install or update 1Password or Knox, you know the app you are getting comes from us. After all, if a bad guy produces a modified version of 1Password, it could do bad things. So far there have been no such modified versions “out there” and we want to keep it that way. In addition to all of the things that we do to ensure that you get the genuine article, Apple is working to make it even easier to keep your Mac free of malicious software.

Apple has just announced that Mountain Lion (to be released in the summer of 2012) will include something called Gatekeeper. This is a core OS X feature that I and others have been anticipating for a while. (surprisingly, almost all of its components are actually built into the latest version of Lion). Roughly speaking, Gatekeeper will allow you to control which apps to run depending on where the software comes from.

The question then is: how does your Mac know where your software comes from?

The Magic of Digital Signatures

I would love nothing more than to explain the mathematics behind digital signatures. But for today’s purposes, let’s just say it is magic (even when you know the math, it feels like magic). When you connect over HTTPS to a secure website, that website proves who it is because it knows a particular secret (called a “private key” or “secret key”). The corresponding “public key” is not kept secret.

The magic is that the website doesn’t have to reveal the secret to prove that it knows it.

Evilgrade

Evilgrade Interface

Instead your computer system can use the non-secret public key to construct a mathematical puzzle that only someone who knows the secret key can solve; anyone with the public key can check that the solution to the puzzle is correct, but they can’t figure out what the secret key is. This can prevent someone hijacking the download process with a tool like evilgrade.

In the same way that a secure website can prove who it is without revealing any secrets, a digital signature on a file (or a group of files) can prove who made it. If someone makes even the smallest change to the signed file, the signature won’t verify.

Three Kinds of Apps

Applications that you install through the Mac App Store (MAS) are all digitally signed this way. But for years, Apple has been encouraging developers to digitally sign applications even if they aren’t sold through the MAS. So on your Mac today there are probably three kinds of applications:

  1. Those that came from the MAS
  2. Signed applications that did not come through the MAS
  3. Applications that aren’t signed

Gatekeeper will allow you to decide which of these categories of applications may run on your machine.

If you are running 1Password 3.9, then that came signed through the MAS. But if you are running 1Password 3.8 or Knox 2 from our website, they are still signed by us and will fall into the second category.

Verifying a signature today

When you install an application from the Mac App Store, the installation process checks the signature. It won’t install the app if it isn’t signed or if the signature doesn’t verify (which is more likely to happen through a damaged download than through a malicious attack, but both can happen). When you update the non-MAS version of 1Password, our updater runs a code signing signature verification as one of the three checks we use to ensure that you are getting the genuine 1Password from us. For those who are curious, our other two verification mechanisms are (1) fetching from a secure web server and verifying the server signature, and (2) checking a cryptographic checksum for the download which we fetch from a separate secure server.

But suppose you wanted to check the version of 1Password that you currently are running. All of those behind-the-scenes checks on the download and installation processes won’t help you do that. Well, the way to check now is hard, which involves running a complicated command in a Terminal window. Here it is for the non-MAS version of 1Password

codesign -vvv -R="identifier ws.agile and anchor trusted" \
/Applications/1Password.app

The output should be something like

/Applications/1Password.app: valid on disk
/Applications/1Password.app: satisfies its Designated Requirement
/Applications/1Password.app: explicit requirement satisfied

Clearly we don’t expect users to run these sorts of commands.

codesign in Terminal

We have been using Apple’s code signing mechanism for years because we wanted to be able to direct concerned users to this kind of command if they specifically ask. We’ve also been using it for additional security in our own updater. But another reason that we’ve been doing this for a while is because we’ve been anticipating either Gatekeeper or something similar.

Verifying a signature tomorrow

Gatekeeper will perform the codesign verification when an application is launched. This adds a great level of additional security beyond verifying the download source when the application is downloaded and installed.

A mathematically valid signature is the easy part

Apple Developer IDThe mathematics (the magic) makes all of the above simple. The hard part of Gatekeeper is the trustworthiness of the signatures. I can sit at a my computer and create a public/private key pair that says that it belongs to Alan Turing. Since Turing has been dead for more than half a century, few people would think that it actually belongs to that great mathematician and codebreaker. But what if I picked the name of a trusted person or institution that is around today?

The answer is that some trusted third party digitally signs my public key after verifying it belongs to who it says it belongs to. I’ve discussed how this system works (and how it can break down) when it comes to web server certificates, so I won’t repeat that here; the concepts are all the same. In the case of codesigning certificates for Mac developers, Apple does that checking and signing.

We changed our name a while back, so at some point before Gatekeeper is in common use, we will have to update our codesigning certificate identifier from “ws.agile” to “com.agilebits”. But for the time being, when you see “ws.agile” as the entity behind the digital signature on 1Password and Knox, you should know that that is us.

Other than getting a new certificate with our new name, we have been ready and waiting for years to get on board with the new security provided by Gatekeeper.

[Update: As of 1Password 3.8.19 Beta 1, 1Password is now signed with our new Apple Developer ID, AgileBits Inc.]

Go Tell it on the Mountain Lion: 1Password will be there

Mountain LionMountain Lion and Safari 5.2 are on their way, and 1Password is readier than it has ever been at this stage in an operating system upgrade.

It won’t be news to anyone that Apple has announced that the new next version of Mac OS X, called Mountain Lion, will be released in the summer of 2012 and that we developers have been given previews to play with. Developers are under a non-disclosure agreement, so I’m not allowed to say anything about Mountain Lion and Safari 5.2 that Apple hasn’t already made public. What I can tell you is that of all the times we’ve been given a first look at a new operating system version, we’ve never had a smoother ride.

1Password Browser ExtensionCredit for this steady transition goes to our “new” way of dealing with browser integration that we developed last year. By working with the grain of browser updates and official extension support, updates barely cause a hiccough.

I should note that, since Mountain Lion is in beta until its scheduled release in summer 2012, there will almost definitely be differences between what was given to developers last week and what will be released to the public. Everything is subject to change. But the ease of this transition so far is absolutely unprecedented. We’ve only spotted one issue so far, a peculiar cosmetic turn of events. I’m sure that we will find other things that need to be fine tuned for Mountain Lion, but we are in a remarkably great position at the moment.