Set up Dropbox syncing with 1Password

Vincent Danen looks at the 1Password password manager for Mac and its improved syncing with Dropbox, the cloud-based file syncing service.

We've previously looked at syncing application data and preferences with Dropbox, but because Dropbox is such a useful tool, we're going to look at it again. This time, however, we will look at one application in particular: Agile Software's excellent 1Password. 1Password is a password management application that allows you to store passwords for websites and remote servers (i.e., mail or ssh passwords), as well as credit card information and software license information. On the Mac, 1Password allows you to auto-fill passwords in a variety of browsers by using the magic key combination of COMMAND + \. 1Password is protected by strong encryption (AES128) so your passwords are safe, and you don't have to remember your passwords at all because 1Password does it for you. All you need to remember is the master password to unlock 1Password.

1Password 3.x offers better integration with Dropbox, the cloud-based file synchronization service. Dropbox is free to use (providing 2GB of space) and for-pay plans are available that give more room for storage.

Tying 1Password to Dropbox makes sense if you use 1Password on multiple systems. The synchronization using Dropbox is stellar: use 1Password on your desktop and any changes made will get synced to your laptop, or any other account connected to your Dropbox.

With the latest version of 1Password Pro for iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), you can now use Dropbox to synchronize the 1Password database from your Mac to your iOS device (previously you had to use a Wi-Fi sync which meant 1Password had to be open on the desktop and you had to be on the same local area network to sync).

To start with, if you don't already use Dropbox to sync 1Password data, you need to make 1Password store it's agile keychain in your Dropbox. Obviously you also need a Dropbox account. Start 1Password and head to the Preferences, then the General tab. Here, click the Move button and 1Password will ask where to move data file to. In the file-chooser window, select your Dropbox folder or a sub-directory within it, then select Move to Selected Folder (i.e., my 1Password keychain is stored in ~/Dropbox/1Password/).

Once this is done, your keychain will be moved and immediately synchronized to your Dropbox.

On another Mac, open 1Password. This Mac also needs to be connected to your Dropbox. Head to the Finder and locate the 1Password.agilekeychain file in the Dropbox. Be sure, before proceeding further, that it has a green checkmark badge on the icon in Finder, which means it has been fully synchronized. If it shows the blue syncing badge, wait until it has completed. When it has, double-click the file and 1Password will ask if you want to use this keychain.

From this point forward, both copies of 1Password will use the same data source; change or add a password on the laptop, and it will be reflected on the desktop, and vice versa.

Finally, with 1Password Pro on iOS, you can use this same Dropbox-synchronized keychain file. Open 1Password Pro on your iOS device and tap the "More" icon, and then select "Settings". Tap "Sync". You may already have "Wi-Fi" enabled here, or you may have 1Password Pro set to not sync at all. Tap the "Dropbox" field then toggle the slider to enable Dropbox syncing.

At this point you have a choice of convenience vs. high security. You will need to provide the master password on your iOS device, and you can elect to have 1Password remember this password in the secure storage area of the device.

Remembering the password allows for a fully automated sync of the Dropbox data; however, if your device is stolen or if a remote exploit to your device is found, it will make it easier for a determined attacker to steal your 1Password data. The choice is yours; for myself I decided to not to let 1Password remember the password and simply make do with manual syncing -- after all, it isn't like I need to sync daily.

After this, you will be asked for your Dropbox credentials. 1Password will locate the keychain file in the Dropbox (it doesn't need to be in a specific location for 1Password Pro to find it), and then begin to sync with it.

Depending on the number of items in your keychain, this may take some time. Once the sync is done, the screen will indicate so, and there will also be a Sync Now button that can be used to perform future manual syncs (if you elected not to save your master password).

Tying 1Password into Dropbox like this is just one more reason to make use of 1Password. Being able to easily carry your passwords with you, in an app that makes use of strong encryption to protect it, is very convenient. With Dropbox, I can ensure that between my iPhone, desktop, laptop, and the computer in the kitchen, I will have my passwords with me wherever I go and I only ever need to remember the master password. Convenience and security can go hand-in-hand, if implemented correctly.