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  • Dropbox security overview: Despite its widespread use, Dropbox has faced numerous security vulnerabilities over the years, including data breaches and phishing attacks.
  • Enhanced security measures: While Dropbox has implemented security enhancements like encryption and compliance standards, users should still take additional steps to secure their accounts.
  • Best practices for Dropbox security: Enforce two-factor authentication, implement least privilege access, use third-party security tools, and carefully manage third-party app integrations.
  • Alternative cloud storage options: Consider alternatives like Sync.com, pCloud, and Icedrive, which offer robust encryption and compliance with industry standards.

The cloud storage service Dropbox is used by over 17.2 million individuals and organizations worldwide. This SaaS platform makes it easy to store, manage, and collaborate on documents from anywhere, on any device. 

However, despite its popularity, Dropbox has a checkered past when it comes to data privacy and security.

Here, we’ll look at Dropbox’s vulnerabilities in more detail, offering you expert advice to bolster your cybersecurity resilience when using the service.  

Diving into Dropbox’s security framework

Dropbox has developed a robust, multi-layered security framework that should keep customers’ files safe from cyber-attacks. 

Here’s a closer look at the company’s approach to security: 

  • Account security: When it comes to account security, Dropbox prioritizes robust measures. Their system incorporates two-factor authentication, user and device management, and a zero-knowledge password manager to fortify accounts against unauthorized access attempts.
  • File protection and encryption: They utilize advanced encryption technology, including 256-bit AES and SSL/TLS, to ensure files remain secure during transfer, shielding them from potential threats.
  • File sharing and permissions: Dropbox offers advanced sharing options. These include features like password protection, expiry dates, and easy revocation of access, ensuring that only authorized individuals can view shared files and folders.
  • File and folder recovery: Dropbox provides seamless file and folder recovery options. Users can effortlessly retrieve lost data and access previous versions of content as needed.
  • Data breach security: Their security protocols include vulnerability testing, red teaming, dark web monitoring, and enterprise detection and response capabilities.
  • Compliance: Dropbox adheres to global regulatory standards. This includes GDPR compliance and HIPAA compliance support, ensuring that user data handling and storage practices meet legal and regulatory requirements.

A historical overview of Dropbox’s vulnerabilities 

Despite Dropbox’s strong security posture, the company is by no means immune to vulnerabilities. Like all SaaS providers, Dropbox’s software developers are constantly rolling out improvements. However, every time software is updated, there’s the potential for silently vulnerabilities to creep in.

If these vulnerabilities aren’t discovered and remediated quickly enough by security professionals, malicious actors could find and use them for their own malicious intent. 

This isn’t a hypothetical issue, either. Over the years, Dropbox has found itself embroiled in quite a few high profile data breaches due to unpatched vulnerabilities. 

Here’s a look at the major ones: 

  • In October 2023, the Dropbox Folder Share for WordPress faced vulnerability to local file inclusion. This flaw enabled unauthenticated attackers to include and execute arbitrary files on the server, potentially bypassing access controls, obtaining sensitive data, or executing code.
  • December 2022 saw the discovery of a critical vulnerability in Dropbox. This vulnerability affected the add_public_key function of the file grouper/public_key.py within the SSH Public Key Handler component. Exploiting this vulnerability involved manipulating the argument public_key_str, leading to injection and enabling remote attacks.
  • December 2019 witnessed a zero-day vulnerability in Dropbox for Windows, permitting attackers to gain permissions reserved for SYSTEM, the most privileged account on the operating system. This unpatched security flaw impacted standard Dropbox installations.
  • In January 2017, Dropbox users’ previously deleted files, some dating back years, reappeared in their accounts. Investigation revealed a bug in Dropbox’s code preventing files and folders from being permanently deleted.
  • August 2012 marked a significant data breach for Dropbox when a hacker exploited a stolen employee password to access customer data, compromising information pertaining to 68 million individuals.

Dropbox’s most damaging breach occurred over a decade ago in 2012, when hackers managed to access sensitive information relating to tens of millions of users. Since then, Dropbox has, somewhat, learned from its mistakes. 

While vulnerabilities have been discovered in the platform since, these flaws were found and mitigated by well-intentioned security researchers, not malicious actors. Saying that, who’s to say Dropbox doesn’t currently have some zero day flaws that are being missed? 

There’s also the issue of 2022’s phishing attack. This attack doesn’t relate to a flaw in Dropbox’s infrastructure. Instead, it stems from human error–an employee fell for a phishing scam that allowed hackers to breach the company. 

While you would hope that Dropbox has next-level security awareness training, clearly improvements are needed when it comes to building a proactive security culture. 

A look at Dropbox’s security enhancements over time 

Despite the list of flaws above, Dropbox is still a relatively secure platform–and has become more so over time. 

Since the 2012 data breach, Dropbox has significantly bolstered its security infrastructure by employing 256-bit AES encryption, implementing two-factor authentication and building a full-time red team to discover potential vulnerabilities. 

Still, while Dropbox’s enhanced security controls reduce the likelihood of hacking incidents, no SaaS provider is immune from zero-day vulnerabilities.

On top of that, there’s the human factor to consider. Hackers don’t just target Dropbox; they target customers too, using phishing attacks, brute force attacks and other means to discover and steal sensitive data.  

There’s also the risk of employees inadvertently leaking sensitive information onto the web. A simple misconfiguration can expose sensitive data to anyone and everyone on the internet. 

These risks underscore the importance of abiding by the cloud’s shared responsibility model. While Dropbox is responsible for securing its underlying infrastructure, it’s up to customers to secure user identities and data access. 

If your company has poor password practices, excessive privileges or poor data governance, that escalates the chance of, firstly, a data leak and, secondly, a malicious actor compromising a legitimate employee account for Dropbox. 

Best Practices for Enhancing Dropbox Security

The good news is that it’s easy to reduce the likelihood of one of your Dropbox accounts becoming compromised. You simply need to take the following steps to hold up your end of the cloud’s shared responsibility model: 

Enforce two-factor authentication (2FA)

According to Verizon’s DBIR report, a significant portion (61%) of cloud security breaches originate from compromised credentials. If hackers gain access to your employees’ Dropbox credentials, the potential ramifications are substantial, ranging from deploying malware within your cloud system to stealing sensitive files.

Traditional access controls prove ineffective against credential compromises, as hackers leverage legitimate logins to infiltrate company data. However, mandating multi-factor authentication (MFA) presents a simple yet effective solution to thwart this threat. 

With MFA enabled, even in the event of an employee’s password compromise, threat actors are unable to access company resources. Additionally, enabling MFA provides real-time alerts of any attempted unauthorized access, facilitating enhanced account monitoring activities.

Implement least privilege access

While MFA serves as a valuable tool against credential compromises, addressing the insider threat necessitates a distinct approach. 

Adopting the principle of least privilege ensures that users only possess access to the data necessary for their job functions, minimizing the risk of accidental data sharing or unauthorized file downloads by disgruntled employees.

By implementing granular access controls, organizations can mitigate the risk of inadvertent data exposure. However, despite these measures, the potential for misconfigurations, such as inadvertently making files accessible to the public, remains a concern.

Embrace third-party security tools 

To effectively prevent sensitive data exposure, organizations should invest in next-generation cloud security solutions that integrate data loss prevention (DLP), user behavior monitoring, employee education, and compliance monitoring functionalities.

These advanced tools represent the most robust defense against Dropbox data leaks, ensuring that sensitive data remains inaccessible to unauthorized individuals and that employees access information in compliance with regulations. 

By combining data protection measures with nudge-based training, these best-in-breed solutions empower employees with real-time education on secure data sharing practices, thereby reducing the likelihood of repeat offenses of risky behavior.

Dealing with Third-Party Access and Integrations 

As well as enhancing security within Dropbox, you should also carefully review and consider all third-party apps your organization has integrated with the service.

These third-party apps are non-Dropbox applications that gain access to some or all of your data in Dropbox, depending on the settings you’ve chosen. 

Here are the steps to take to ensure you integrate third-party apps securely: 

  • Review app terms of use and privacy policies: Before granting access to your Dropbox account, thoroughly review the terms of use and privacy policies of each application. Different apps may request varying levels of access, including viewing, editing, or managing your files and folders. It’s crucial to select an appropriate access level based on your needs and security preferences.
  • Disconnect unused applications: Periodically review and disconnect any applications that you no longer use or require access to your Dropbox account. By doing so, you can mitigate the risk of unauthorized access and minimize potential security vulnerabilities.
  • Implement DLP: Utilize DLP solutions to monitor application behavior concerning sensitive data within your Dropbox environment. DLP tools enable proactive identification and prevention of data breaches by monitoring and controlling the movement of sensitive information across applications and devices.
  • Promote employee awareness: Educate your employees about the significance of understanding app permissions and adhering to your company’s information security and governance policies. Encourage employees to exercise caution when granting access to third-party applications and emphasize the importance of safeguarding sensitive data within Dropbox.

What are some Dropbox alternatives for enhanced security?

Depending on the sector you work in, Dropbox’s history could mean the platform is too insecure for you to use. Here are some Dropbox alternatives that offer enhanced security: 


  • Utilizes a robust encryption protocol: All file transfers are encrypted using a 2,048-bit RSA key on the user’s device before upload, ensuring that only clients have access to their data. 
  • Zero-knowledge storage platform: Sync.com’s zero-knowledge storage platform ensures that files are decrypted locally, enhancing security and privacy.
  • Compliance with industry standards: Sync.com plans comply with SOC 2 Type 1, GDPR, and PIPEDA regulations, making it suitable for businesses operating internationally. Some plans meet HIPAA, making the platform suitable for healthcare companies operating in the US. 


  • Advanced security practices: pCloud employs zero-knowledge at-rest encryption, giving users complete control over their files and preventing unauthorized access.
  • Secure data transfer: All files are transferred over a secure TLS/SSL encrypted channel.
  • Storage and password protection: pCloud stores files in multiple locations for redundancy and allows users to add passwords to especially sensitive files, enhancing data security.


  • Implementation of Twofish algorithm: Icedrive is distinguished by its use of the Twofish algorithm, renowned for its robust security and encryption capabilities.
  • Client-side encryption: Paid subscribers benefit from zero-knowledge, client-side encryption, ensuring that data is encrypted on the user’s device before being transferred to servers.

Wrapping up 

Ultimately, Dropbox has worked hard to enhance its security over the last decade. While the company still experiences vulnerabilities, this is normal in the world of SaaS. Moreover, it’s encouraging to see that Dropbox takes a proactive approach to discovering and mitigating these vulnerabilities. 

Despite the 2022 phishing attack on Dropbox, the platform has not experienced any data breaches or leaks since, indicating it has likely learned from its mistake. 

If you choose to use this service, the major takeaway is to bolster security on your side, using tools like multi-factor authentication, DLP, and user awareness training to ensure your people aren’t the weak link when using Dropbox. 


  • Is Dropbox a security risk? Like all SaaS applications, using Dropbox is not completely risk-free, but the company has strong security credentials. You can bolster Dropbox security by implementing multi-factor authentication and data loss prevention to combat data leakage and theft. 
  • Has Dropbox been hacked? The most recent Dropbox data breach occurred in 2022, when hackers implemented a successful phishing attack to access Dropbox’s GitHub repository. 
  • Is Dropbox safer than Google Drive? Dropbox and Google Drive are both relatively secure platforms. Whichever you choose, make sure to bolster data security through MFA and DLP. 
  • How do I secure my Dropbox account? Bolster the security of your Dropbox account by using a complex password combined with MFA. Enterprises should also use third-party DLP to thwart the risks of data leakage and account compromise.

Polymer is a human-centric data loss prevention (DLP) platform that holistically reduces the risk of data exposure in your SaaS apps and AI tools. In addition to automatically detecting and remediating violations, Polymer coaches your employees to become better data stewards. Try Polymer for free.


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