Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

Are there Now Public Links to Everything in My Dropbox?

Dropbox recently announced that you can now share files and folders already
in your Dropbox with a public link.

Previously, you could only share those files and folders you had explicitly
placed in a specific public folder within your Dropbox. Now, you can link to any
file anywhere in your Dropbox.

Anywhere?

Anywhere. And I’ll admit that made me nervous.

Until a friend pointed me at something that Dropbox failed to mention in
their announcement.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

Links don’t exist until you create them

The concept that everything in my Dropbox might have a publicly accessible
link was more than a little disconcerting. Even though the links are clearly
very obscure – as we’ll see momentarily – that would still amount to “security
by obscurity” which amounts to simply hiding things in the hope that no one
would find it.

Fortunately, that’s apparently not what’s happening here.

It appears that the process of getting a link to an item that you want to
share actually creates the link – meaning that the link simply doesn’t exist
until you do that.

In other words, the only things that are publicly accessible are those things
in your Dropbox for which you explicitly create a link.

And even then, you can later invalidate the link.

Creating a link

Browsing your Dropbox contents on the Dropbox website, you can now right-click an item and click the new “Get link” menu item:

Get link option in Dropbox

Click that and you’ll actually be taken to a link for the item:

Dropbox link for an item

The link can then be copied from your browser’s address bar.

In the example above, the link is to:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mrk13zricufcb0b/2012-04-08%2008.19.49.jpg

You’ll note that the generated link is very obscure – there’s no easy way to
guess the link. It also uses https, which I appreciate.

In most of the Dropbox applications on PCs, Macs, and mobile devices, a
similar Get link option has been added so you don’t even need to go to the
website. In Windows, for example, just right-click the item and click the
Dropbox sub-menu.

(Note: As I was testing this, the Get link option was not available for items in my Photos folder. However, if I viewed the image on the website, then a Get
link
item was available at the bottom of the page.)

But it gets better.

Removing a link

You can remove the links that you’ve created. (Big thanks to my friend Steve
over at Mac Help
For Mom
for pointing this out.)

If you view your Dropbox on the web, you’ll see a link labeled Links:

Dropbox Links link

Click that and you’ll get a list of all of the links that you’ve created:

Dropbox list of links created

Note the Remove link.

Each link can be individually removed.

Dropbox remove link warning

Once you remove a link, the item is no longer accessible.

In my opinion, a perfect addition to the sharing solution.

Use common sense

As with all online services, uses common sense when sharing – or even
choosing what it is you want to place into your Dropbox.

For example, don’t share a folder (yes, you can share an entire folder) that
contains a bunch of private things in addition to the one picture that you’re actually
interested in sharing.

Realize that, should your Dropbox account be compromised, the person with
access will be able to access everything in it.

But when used sensibly, Dropbox remains a great way to share files and folders
between computers, and now even share files and folders with anyone who has
internet access.

References:

Share your stuff with a
link!
– Dropbox Blog, April 23, 2012.

Subscribe to Confident Computing! Tech problem solving & safety tips & a weekly confidence boost in your inbox every week.

I'll see you there!

10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow

Slow Computer?

Speed up with my special report: 10 Reasons Your Computer is Slow, now updated for Windows 10.

NOW: name your own price! You decide how much to pay -- and yes, that means you can get this report completely free if you so choose. Get your copy now!

1 thought on “Are there Now Public Links to Everything in My Dropbox?”

  1. I’ve just started with Dropbox, thanks to info I read here. I have a good feeling about this company and if I was a gambler and the company was a public one, would investigate buying shares.

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.