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Discusses issues of Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of FileMaker Pro databases.

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Steven H. Blackwell

FileMaker 16 Platform Brings Significant New Security Features




The release of Version 16 of the FileMaker Platform brings with it a host of new security features reaching across the entire FileMaker Platform, from FileMaker® Server 16 to FileMaker® Pro 16 to WebDirect™ and beyond.

There are new controls on the use of three external Application Programming Interfaces (API’s): AppleEvents, ActiveX, and FMPURL.  These controls significantly strengthen security in this area and prevent use of the API’s to manipulate and compromise the database files.

There is a new option to encrypt individual fields in a table of the database. Developers must learn what this feature is and what it does and does not do.  For example, it does not replace Encryption At Rest (EAR) for files.

Version 16 also expands Federated Identity Management with the addition of three new Identity Services that can authenticate user identity assertions.  Google Accounts, Amazon Accounts, and Azure Active Directory Accounts and Groups, can now validate such assertions.  Again, developers must learn how this feature works and what it does and does not do.

Read more in this new White Paper jointly authored by Wim Decorte and Steven H. Blackwell.


Introduction To The Numerous Significant New Security Features In FileMaker Platform Version 16


that you can download from this link:




You can also read more about the new OAuth2 Identity Assertion Validation options in a second White Paper also jointly authored by Wim Decorte and Steven H. Blackwell.

Federated Identity Management OAuth Identity Providers in FileMaker 16


that you can download from this link:



Wim Decorte will also be presenting a program at the 2017 DevCon on this topic.


Steven H. Blackwell

Platinum Member Emeritus, FileMaker Business Alliance


Steven H. Blackwell

Unskilled and Unaware

Nearly fourteen years ago two Cornell University psychologists authored a definitive study titled Unskilled and Unaware of It. Their core thesis was that persons who were unskilled in any number of domains suffered a dual burden. They reach erroneous conclusions and make incorrect and unfortunate choices on the one hand. And second, their lack of knowledge and competence robs them of the ability to recognize their errors. They are incorrect; yet, they believe that they are correct, and they are unaware of their errors.

In the broader FileMaker community and among significant portions of the broadly-defined FileMaker developer community, this unfortunate set of circumstances manifests itself most vividly in the two areas of FileMaker Server and FileMaker Security.

There are many excellent and creative developers who are providing software development services to internal and external clients on seven continents. The solutions they create solve a vast array of business management problems, allow companies or organizations to grow and better to serve their clients and customers, and streamline organization operations.

A line, seemingly and paradoxically both vivid and yet hidden at the same time, separates these developers from those also having an effective knowledge of FileMaker Server and a clear understanding of how different an environment FileMaker Server is than what FileMaker Pro is. That effective knowledge also allows those developers to offer a stable and secure deployment platform on which their solutions can be run for maximum effectiveness.

There is a considerable body of material extant about FileMaker Server, and most of it is both good and useful. But there is not too much information available about how different it is than the development environment that characterizes FileMaker Pro Advanced or the client consumption environments of FileMaker Pro, FileMaker GO, or the various web publishing options, not to mention such elements as ODBC or JDBC connectivity.

The server environment is poised in my view to increase its significance and importance, not to mention its ubiquity. Thus, it is an absolute necessity that FileMaker professionals significantly increase their knowledge levels about the environments in which the Server products work as well as their knowledge about how the Server products do their work. The developer community, and the customer/client community, must acquire the understanding and the skills to overcome the burdens of being unskilled and unaware.

In 2013, I will be focusing on promoting the goal of achieving that understanding along with the parallel and related one of overcoming a similar lack of understanding and awareness about FileMaker security items.

To begin the discussion about FileMaker Server, I would point out a few key items:

1. The purpose of FileMaker Server is to provide safe, secure, reliable, and consistently available access to data and business processes housed in database files.

2. The purpose of the server hardware housing FileMaker Server is to facilitate and to enhance FileMaker Server’s ability to achieve its core objectives. The same is true for the operating system that runs the hardware.

3. A server environment is different than and distinct from a workstation’s development environment or a client usage environment. It has its own constraints, requirements, tools and sound operating principles.

As a first step towards gaining more understanding about FileMaker Server, I recommend a review of the FileMaker Server 12 video tutorials by our leading industry expert Wim Decorte found at:

VTC Server Videos

Steven H. Blackwell

The original study by the two Cornell scholars:

Justin Kruger and David Dunning;

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own

Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,

1999, Vol. 77, No. 6. 121-1134)

Steven H. Blackwell

The Power and Advantages Of External Server Authentication With FileMaker Server


Steven H. Blackwell

May 9th 2011

Since the advent of FileMaker® Server 7 in 2004, FileMaker developers have been able to employ External Server Authentication for controlling Identity and Access Management to FileMaker files when hosted by FileMaker Server. Yet, either from lack of knowledge or from incorrect assumptions about the process, many do not employ this powerful option.

First, a little background information might be useful to further understanding of this process. Most developers are aware that a FileMaker file can contain multiple Accounts and that each individual Account is attached to a given Privilege Set. The Account, together with its password, serves to determine who is accessing the file and that the person accessing is who he or she claims to be. Who are you, and are you actually whom you claim to be? Once authenticated, the user is admitted to the file with the privileges defined in the Privilege Set associated with the Account.

When a system contains one or two Accounts and maybe only a couple of files, this construct of Accounts and Privileges is reasonably easy to manage. But for many users across many files, management is far more complex. This has lead some developers to construct ersatz log-on and security systems of varying degrees of complexity in an attempt to manage the system. I have seen literally scores of these over the past seven years. Almost completely without exception, they have proved highly vulnerable, easy to defeat, and susceptible to manipulation. They detract from, and damage, security in the files where they are used.

External Server Authentication allows us to remove the Accounts and passwords from the FileMaker file and place those Accounts and passwords either on a Domain Controller or directly on the FileMaker Server machine itself. Accounts on the server are placed into Groups, each of which can contain many Accounts. In the FileMaker files themselves, instead of individual Accounts, developers can create identically named Groups and attach each to an individual Privilege Set. These Groups must exactly match those created on the server.

When a user seeks access to a file hosted by FileMaker Server where External Server Authentication is employed, FileMaker Server queries the server (either itself or the Domain Controller) to determine the authenticity of the Account. If the Account is deemed valid, then the user is connected to the FileMaker file with the correct set of privileges. FileMaker Server matches the Group name in the file to the Group name on the server that houses the Account to determine what that set of Privileges should be. This process works to authenticate users connecting by FileMaker Pro clients as well as by Instant Web Publishing and by Custom Web Publishing.

This process works with Active Directory on Windows Server, with Open Directory on Macintosh Server, and with local security groups on either platform, although in slightly different ways. However, contrary to popular belief, it does not work with generic LDAP server connections. Part of the FileMaker Server Administration Console has a configuration panel for LDAP. This has nothing at all to do with External Server Authentication. Additionally, and again contrary to popular belief, a Domain Controller is not required to make External Server Authentication work. The external Groups can be on the FileMaker Server itself.

So why use External Server Authentication? What are its capabilities? What are its benefits? What are its advantages? There are a number of these.

1. Use of External Server Authentication dramatically simplifies Account management, especially for many users across multiple files. Once the system is set up correctly, the Account name and password need be entered only one time and in only one place. It does not have to be entered individually in each file. For a system with 25 users and 15 files, that would be 375 separate entries in individual files, versus 25 entries in one place with External Server Authentication. The likelihood for error is dramatically reduced.

2. When using External Server Authentication and updating an existing FileMaker solution, the developer does not have to worry about reconciliation of Accounts and passwords added or deleted since the prior update. This is very helpful, especially when using The Separation Model™ construct. Accounts are not in the files, including UI and logic files. So there is nothing there that changes when a older version of a file is swapped out for a newer one.

3. External Server Authentication takes advantage of the security system that an IT department has already established in either a small organization or a large one. FileMaker developers can thereby leverage the usefulness and power of these assets. FileMaker developers and DBA’s are freed of the burden of managing Identity and Access Management by utilizing assets already in place.

4. In some circumstances, developers can take advantage of the power, usefulness, and convenience of Single SignOn, (SSO) also called Single Source LogOn. In such a system, once a user is authenticated by the Domain Controller for access to network assets such as file servers, printers, etc., that same authentication can be passed seamlessly to FileMaker Server. The user is then not required to enter additional credentials to access the FileMaker files. Users need to remember only one set of credentials; they are therefore thought not to be as likely to write their credentials down somewhere and leave them where they can be discovered. SSO works from Windows OS workstations to FileMaker Server running on a Windows OS Server. It does not work in any other configuration of Operating Systems; however, it can be emulated on Macintosh OS workstations by use of the KeyChain. Inappropriate KeyChain use can itself be a problem; such misuse can be managed. That is a topic perhaps for a future Blog posting here.

5. External Server Authentication, when used with a Domain Controller, can extend the scope of tools for Credentials Lifecycle Management. Length and complexity of passwords are better controlled. The same is true for blocking the repetitive use of the same password. Additionally Domain Controllers can manage the permissible days and times and locations of log-ons. Additionally, Domain Controllers can prevent simultaneous log-ons with the same credentials. External Server Authentication thus expands the range of Identity and Access Management controls beyond those found in the native FileMaker file itself.

There are a number of different configuration scenarios for External Server Authentication depending on the specific mix of Operating Systems in place among FileMaker Server machines, user workstations, and Domain Controllers. This topic is covered in vast detail in a White Paper I co-authored with FileMaker Server world class expert Wim Decorte. That paper, Server External Authentication, was last updated for FileMaker® Server 9 in 2008. However it contains information still pertinent and useful for FileMaker® Server 11.

To recap, External Server Authentication offers FileMaker developers and DBA’s as well as IT managers flexibility, ease of Account management, and utilization of a range of IT created security assets. It should be a core part of every FileMaker developer’s arsenal.

Steven H. Blackwell

The FileMaker Platform API’s Are Your Friends, Right?

The FileMaker Platform supports integration with a variety of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s), and it has done so for a very long time. These API’s allow FileMaker Platform developers to integrate their solutions with other technologies and applications. This is an incredibly useful capability; indeed, from both technological and business-process standpoints, it is essential.

Many FileMaker developers are not aware, however, that these API’s have the capability to access customer or client solutions in unexpected ways and to extract or insert data, to manipulate business processes developers embedded into these solutions, and to compromise the integrity of these solutions.  Correctly configured and appropriately granular Privilege Sets can control many of these behaviors. But developers must first understand what those behaviors are and then how to control them.

This FileMaker Security BLOG entry will identify a number of these API’s, will describe their use as attack vectors, and will point out some specific issues with several of the API’s. My hope and intent is to equip FileMaker Platform developers with the knowledge necessary to recognize these issues and to address them.

The FileMaker Platform utilizes a number of API’s:

  • Apple Events
  • Active X
  • WebDirect™
  • XML
  • PHP
  • Execute SQL
  • xdbc (ODBC and JDBC)
  • Plug-Ins
  • FileMaker Pro External File References and Data Sources

Many developers may be surprised by my including the FileMaker Pro application itself in the list of API’s. Yet, through use of its powerful capabilities to access data in other files and to trigger business-level processes such as scripts, the application is, in fact, an API to itself. This has significant impact from the security standpoint when the capability is misused and when one FileMaker Pro file functions as an attack vector on another FileMaker Pro file.

There are five significant actions an external API can undertake to perform on a FileMaker Pro file.  Not every API can perform all these tasks; however, each can perform at least one of them. What are those actions?

  • Read and extract data
  • Write data
  • Read and extract metadata
  • Manipulate the User Interface
  • Trigger FileMaker Scripts

What are some of the types of attacks these API’s can facilitate?  And, more importantly, how can developers ameliorate the adverse impact of such attacks and perhaps prevent them in the first instance?

One category of attack centers on manipulation of the User Interface to send the attacker to a layout in the file the developer never intended to have exposed.  This is one of the inherent dangers that so-called “Developer” layouts present.  Unless a layout enjoys access protection in the Privilege Set attached to the active Account, the Attacker can navigate to it and observe anything shown on it.

Another category of attack deals with reading and extracting data from a table.  Some API’s can perform this task and even write out the data to another application such as Excel or Microsoft Word. In other instances, an attack can cause an export of data from a file.

Still another category of attack involves the triggering of scripts in a manner developers did not anticipate or intend. Generally speaking, if a script is either modifiable or (more commonly) executable to the active Account’s Privilege Set, then the Attacker can invoke the script. Developers must carefully consider the conditions under which a script runs. Scripts that re-log into the solution with elevated privileges without a credentials challenge are especially attractive targets for attackers. The script does not have to appear in the Scripts menu or be attached to an object on a layout to be vulnerable to such an attack. Its mere existence in the file in an unprotected state is sufficient to render it vulnerable.

Some API’s can extract metadata from a file.  Some metadata, such as a list of items in a value list, might also reveal data at the table level. Additionally, the metadata item might be a list of the Layout names in a file.  An attacker could use this information to attempt navigation to a particular layout such as the “Developer” layout previously mentioned. Similarly, metadata might reveal a list of Script names; this could facilitate an attack on a selected script.

There are three API’s that cause particular concern because of their breadth and relative ease of use.  These three are Apple Events, the FMPURL process, and FileMaker Pro files themselves.

The Apple Events Suite has an extensive set of commands that can read and write data, read metadata, manipulate the UI, and trigger scripts. In addition, they can work outside the normal constraints found on layouts in a file. http://thefmkb.com/5671

The FMPURL process (that is described at https://www.filemaker.com/help/14/fmp/en/html/sharing_data.17.6.html can open a file and run a script in it.  If the file is already open, then the script will still run.

A FileMaker Pro file can also read and write data in another FileMaker Pro file.  That is a commonly used process.  But such files can also run scripts, manipulate the UI, extract data, and extract metadata from other files.  If the target files are not protected, they are vulnerable to these type actions. This is a more subtle process than might first be observed.  A number of Privilege Set bits apply only to the file in which they are defined; they may work differently when called externally from another FileMaker Pro file.

So, how can a FileMaker Platform developer address these issues and protect a FileMaker Platform solution?  There are several key steps developers should take:

Invoke File Access Protection.  This prevents unauthorized references by external rogue files an attacker might create. FileMaker, Inc. introduced this feature to the Platform in version 11. At that time I authored a White Paper fully describing this feature. The White Paper can be found at the following location: http://www.fmpug.com/resources/security_schema_changes_filemaker_11

Tightly define Privilege Sets so as to block access to elements that need protecting. Items marked as «No Access» do not respond to External API calls as a general rule.

Take steps to prevent automatic access to files without credentials. In most instances developers should prevent auto-opening of files, especially at higher levels of privilege.  Once opened, such files can become vulnerable to attacks using the API’s. They can also be used to attack other FileMaker Pro files. I discussed some aspects of this two years ago in a post on this BLOG 

Do not enable any API’s not needed in a file. This includes such items as XML, PHP, and xdbc.  Strictly speaking, WebDirect™ perhaps is not actually an API; however, developers should not enable it either if it is not needed.

In this BLOG post, I have enumerated a number of FileMaker Platform External API’s and described how a Threat Agent (Attacker) might use them as a vector to compromise FileMaker Platform solutions.  I have also enumerated some specific attacks.  And I have provided several recommendations for protecting the files and lessening the likelihood of a successful attack.

Steven H. Blackwell


Steven H. Blackwell

“What's in a name? that which we call a rose,

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

—Juliet (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2, William Shakespeare)—

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”


An entire series of recent studies[1] published by well-known and well renown international security analysis and information industry firms have all made, in slightly varying language, the following key points:

  1. Data housed in files in organizations are under relentless and persistent attack by a variety of threat agents including criminals, nation states, so-called “hacktivists”, and disgruntled current or former employees.
  2. Organizations of all different sizes are vulnerable; however, smaller businesses and organizations are particularly susceptible to data breaches because they have fewer resources with which to protect themselves and are often in the supply chain of larger organizations that may house particularly valuable data. This is not to say that smaller organization themselves do not also have the same type of particularly valuable data.
  3. Financial gain, industrial espionage focused on the theft of intellectual property, and embarrassment or disruption of organization activity are three principal motivations driving threat agents to undertake attacks that result in data breaches.
  4. The data are the target, not networks or web sites, or other digital infrastructure items. It’s the data.

The data housed in FileMaker databases and resident in organizations using FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server fall squarely into this realm. So contrary to Juliet’s assertion, we need to adopt the Confucian approach and call this by its proper name.

FileMaker databases are susceptible to attack, and the data in them can be compromised and stolen or altered or manipulated by unauthorized persons. The sooner the community recognizes this, and the sooner developers and administrators recognize this, the sooner we can begin a serious and focused discussion about how to identify the likely attackers, identify what vulnerabilities in the software they might exploit, assess the likely risk of their doing so, and develop plans to mitigate the adverse impact of successful attacks.

What type data are vulnerable? The answer is: all types. Some categories are more valuable than others; these are likely high on the list of any attacker. Financial data, personally identifiable information, intellectual property, business process information, and organizational IT data are major targets.

What type organization is most at risk? Both small and large organizations in the for-profit, the not-for-profit, and the government and education sectors are targets. While certain types of attacks tend to focus on different sized organizations, all are vulnerable. And since smaller organizations frequently lack the resources or the processes to protect themselves, they can be especially hard hit.

FileMaker Pro database systems can be found in every type organization imaginable of every size and description in well over 100 countries on seven continents. Some of these databases are well-defended; others are defenseless. We in the developer community are lagging in our efforts to address the seriousness and pervasiveness of the threats to FileMaker databases found in all types of organizations, large and small, across a range of business segments.

One sentence in one of those reports[2] I referenced at the beginning of this post stands out as a stark reminder:

“Some interpret attack difficulty as synonymous with the skill of the attacker, and while there’s some truth to that, it almost certainly reveals much more about the skill and readiness of the defender.”

It’s time for the developer community to get busy about and to get serious about protecting information stored in the systems we create. What information do your clients have that needs protecting? And what happens if you don’t do that? We will explore those two questions, along with how to determine threats and risks, in coming entries on this BLOG.

[1] Verizon, 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report

Mandiant, 2013 M Trends Threat Report

Solutionary, 2013 Global Threat Intelligence Report (GTIR)

Sophos, Security Threat Report 2013

[2] Verizon Report p. 48

Steven H. Blackwell

Ten Frequently Encountered Practices

That Can Compromise Security of FileMaker Pro Files

April 9th 2013

In our last installment, I noted:

“In 2013, I will be focusing on promoting the goal of achieving that understanding [meaning understanding FileMaker Server] along with the parallel and related one of overcoming a similar lack of understanding and awareness about FileMaker security items.”

In this post I want to focus on ten frequently encountered practices with FileMaker Pro files that present potential vulnerabilities that could be used to compromise the Confidentiality, Integrity, or Availability of the files and their resident data. Most of these scenarios occur on files hosted by FileMaker Server; however some may pertain to standalone files as well. These scenarios occur in a variety of organizations and deployments; all present unneeded vulnerabilities.

  1. Full Access Accounts for server side scripts. Avoid the use of Accounts tied to the [Full Access] Privilege Set for running server side scripts. Use an Account tied to a subordinate level Privilege Set specifically designed for the purpose of running the script.

  2. Not disabling default Account. The default Account, whether auto-logon or not, should be disabled. This Account is Admin with a blank password. Or alternatively, add a strong password to that Account and be sure auto-logon is disabled.

  3. FMServer sample file where is as is. Developers should close and preferably remove this file from FileMaker Server if it is not being used. If it is used, disable the auto-logon and give the default Admin Account a strong password.

  4. External Server Authentication of Full Access Accounts. Avoid using External Server Authentication for Accounts tied to the [Full Access] Privilege Set. It puts the files at risk of compromise.

  5. Reliance on default subordinate Privilege Sets. The two default subordinate Privilege Sets (Data Entry Only and Read- Only Access) contain privileges considerably in excess of what their respective name implies. Create your own custom Privilege Sets instead with exactly the privileges, and only the privileges, that you need for the assigned role.

  6. Not logging out of the FileMaker Server machine. FileMaker Server is a service/daemon. It is designed to be run with no one logged into its machine. That, by far, is the safest way to run it. Running it with a user logged in or at the “Lock” position on either OS X Server or Windows Server compromises its security.

  7. Failing to Employ the File Access Protection Feature. The File Access Protection feature added in FileMaker® Pro 11, and continued in FileMaker® Pro 12, helps protect files from unauthorized and unexpected manipulation of scripts, value lists, table aliases, and other schema. It also prevents unauthorized accessing of information in an external file by manipulation of the Design Functions. Many developers simply do not invoke this feature to protect files, and this leaves them vulnerable.

  8. Enabling OS Level File Sharing. FileMaker Server does not require the use of Operating System (OS) level file sharing in order to function correctly. Such OS level shares represent an attack vector that can be exploited to compromise or to damage the files. These shares can also impede performance of FileMaker Server.

  9. Confusing Data Access Privileges And User Interface Privileges. Generally speaking, privileges assigned at the data level persist wherever the data are accessed. If a field is not editable for a given Privilege Set when that field is viewed in File A, it will likewise not be editable when viewed in File B. The same is not true however with other items such as printing or exporting. Blocking printing of data or exporting of data in File A does not block those same actions when data from File A are viewed in File B. That’s one reason why the File Access Protection feature described in item 7 is so important for protecting data.

  10. Using Enterprise Level Backup Systems on Live FileMaker Pro files. FileMaker Server has its own built-in backup processes. In FileMaker® Server 12, this includes both incremental backups that copy only changed blocks and a new hard-link backup system that prevents multiple copying of files that have not changed since their last backup. Use of enterprise level backup systems on hosted FileMaker Pro files can damage those files and adversely affect the integrity and availability of those backups. It can also damage and corrupt the original files in the process. Such enterprise systems should not be used on live, hosted files.

Developers and FileMaker Server administrators should avoid being members of the class of “Unskilled and Unaware of It” persons by learning and following Best Practices for FileMaker security.

Steven H. Blackwell

Some Vulnerabilities Associated With Ersatz Log-On Systems


October 29th 2015


My recent post [http://fmforums.com/blogs/entry/1410-new-paradigms-in-filemaker-platform-security/] on this BLOG about New Paradigms in FileMaker Platform Security has apparently occasioned a good deal of discussion in various FileMaker-related venues. Much of this reportedly has focused on the ersatz systems that I recommended be avoided. Many persons seem to have asserted that they use such systems for a variety of reasons.  And further, they proclaimed their belief that these systems were secure and immune to tampering.

Others have taken a different view, similar to my own, cautioning against the use of such systems.  Among the reasons they cited for that cautionary warning are unreliability of these systems and their susceptibility to tampering.

In this BLOG post, I am going to focus on some commonly-found characteristics of these ersatz systems and explore how an attacker might compromise them.


—Ersatz Systems—

Generally speaking these systems are directed towards one or both of two distinct processes: first, authentication; second, assignment of privileges in the database. The processes they employ usually start with an automated log-in to the system, usually at a self-described “low level of privileges.” What this actually means in terms of actual privileges remains to be seen on a case-by-case basis and varies among different systems.

Through the use of some process of identification of the user, a re-login occurs with an Account Name and Password unknown to the user and with a level of privileges attached to the unknown Account. That is to say, multiple users employ the same Account and Password to access the file; however, the individual user does not know either of the credentials’ items.

Furthermore, in some versions of these ersatz systems, privileges are also set by values in flag fields rather than through privilege bit elements in the Privilege Set.


—Compromising Ersatz Systems—


An attacker frequently can easily achieve a compromise of these ersatz systems, resulting in access at elevated levels of privilege. Unauthorized escalation of privileges is a common result of an attack. It is a circumstance we try to avoid wherever possible.

When a system automatically admits a user to the file without a challenge, two-thirds of the battle is already lost. The automatic initial log-on with the re-login by the unknown Account does just that.  The attacker is now in the file. As a result the attacker can now exploit any vulnerability not controlled by the developer.  And the developer likely cannot control every vulnerability. The attacker can now escalate his privileges, something (as mentioned) we try to prevent happening.

Even self-described low-level privileges associated with the automated log-on have certain capabilities. Otherwise, the ersatz system would not work. What are some of these capabilities and how might they be exploited?

First, the process that identifies the user and performs the re-login is in one of two different possible states.  It is either Paused or Not Paused depending on the scripted action that controls it.  If it is Paused, then the attacker can stop the Pause by any of several methods, most notably by external Application Program Interfaces (API’s). This means the attacker can cancel the paused state and return to a normal or unpaused state. The Allow User Abort [Off] functionality has no impact on this at all.  Pause can be stopped even if Allow User Abort is set to OFF.  Conversely, if the initial state of the process is Not Paused, the attacker can proceed to the next step.

Second, the attacker is now in the file and the file is in a normal state. The attacker can now activate the re-login process and gain privileges. Unless the re-login scripts are exceptionally well protected, the attacker can activate them by any of several different methods or a combination of methods:

         •External API’s

         •External references if the target file is not protected

•User Interface manipulation of the target file in some instances, depending on how the file is constructed.

What this means is that the re-logon process can be run without any reference whatsoever to the user’s name or other identifying information.  The attacker will now enjoy the privileges associated with the newly acquired Privilege Set. If the re-login process includes access to an Account with [Full Access] privileges, such as has been observed in a number of instances of these ersatz systems, then various serious consequences will ensue:

•Compromise of intellectual property

•Exfiltration of data

•Sabotage of data in the file surreptitiously or overtly

•Surreptitious extraction of [Full Access] Account name and password from the file. The amount of damage flowing from this can be exceptionally extensive, especially for widely-distributed commercial vertical market products.

•Surreptitious monitoring of file over time


—Flag Fields—

There is another set of circumstances that can happen associated with the flag fields that attempt to confer privileges.  If these are not exceptionally well-protected, the attacker can change their values, and thereby a low-level privilege coverts to a high-level privilege. Protection does not mean removing from the Layouts Menu the layouts where the flag fields might appear. Additionally, protection also does not mean keeping flag fields off of any layout whatsoever.

An attacker can manipulate the values in these flag fields by a variety of methods:

•External API’s

•External references if the target file is not protected

•UI manipulation of target file in some instances

We distinguish all of this from privileges the developer allows in the Privilege Sets in the file.  An attacker cannot manipulate such privileges in the same fashion as he could with the flag fields.



Avoid the use of ersatz log-on and privilege-granting systems. An attacker can interrupt and otherwise thwart the processes controlling the ersatz system. The attacker can manipulate data-based “privilege” flags and change their values. The attacker gains access and escalates privileges through these flawed processes. Ersatz systems detract from the real security a file needs.  Ersatz systems also impart a false sense of security about the files.  Use the tools FileMaker, Inc. gives you to protect the file.  Do not try to invent your own in almost any and every instance.


Steven H. Blackwell



Steven H. Blackwell

Security Vulnerabilities of FileMaker Platform API’s:  An Update

 January 9th 2017

In an April 2016 entry on this BLOG titled The FileMaker Platform API’s Are Your Friends, Right? [http://fmforums.com/blogs/entry/1535-the-filemaker-platform-api’s-are-your-friends-right/] I discussed a number of FileMaker Platform security issues centered on the uncontrolled use of a number of external Application Program Interfaces (API’s). There are at least nine of these API, possibly more, if ExecuteSQL is included. The central thesis of that article was that these API’s provide unexpected attack vectors to compromise FileMaker Platform files.  As noted at the time:

Many FileMaker developers are not aware, however, that these API’s have the capability to access customer or client solutions in unexpected ways and to extract or insert data, to manipulate business processes developers embedded into these solutions, and to compromise the integrity of these solutions. 

Unfortunately, in the intervening nine-month time span, we continue to see cases where several of these API have been used for malicious purposes to compromise FileMaker Platform files’ business process integrity, to manipulate data, and to extract data.  And many in the developer community remain unaware of this problem. In this BLOG entry, I will describe two of these API’s in greater specificity and detail, including describing a variety of attacks they can facilitate.  This article will not discuss the ActiveX API that is available on Windows OS; however, developers should give similar attention to that approach. Developers need to be aware of these items in order to protect their files and those of their clients.

The two API at the center of this focus are Apple Events and the FMPURL process.  In the earlier article, I noted several elements about these that bear repeating here:

[These API] cause particular concern because of their breadth and relative ease of use….

The Apple Events Suite has an extensive set of commands that can read and write data, read metadata, manipulate the UI, and trigger scripts. In addition, they can work outside the normal constraints found on layouts in a file. [http://thefmkb.com/5671]

The FMPURLcan open a file and run a script in it.  If the file is already open, then the script will still run. [http://thefmkb.com/5560]


A few general comments about both of these API’s:

·      They are not platform-specific in the sense that just because a client organization is an all Windows OS environment that it is immune from an Apple Event attack.  It’s the OS of the attacker that controls whether the API can be used.

·      There are some ways within Privilege Sets to constrain behavior of these API commands when they are applied on a file. The Export privilege bit can control the ability of Apple Events to extract data from a file. The Layout Access privilege bits can also constrain the ability to see contents of a layout. Likewise, Script Access privilege bits can control the availability of a script to either of these API.

·      These API often perform actions in unexpected fashions that fall outside the normal, traditional, and familiar FileMaker Pro User Interface behavior. This is part of what catches developers by surprise.


—Apple Events—

When a file is open, whether standalone or hosted by FileMaker Server, an attacker can send Apple Event commands to it causing it to perform a variety of actions, including:

·      Run any script to which the user has access, irrespective of whether that script is in the list of Scripts or whether it is attached to some UI element, such as a button.

·      Navigate to any Layout irrespective of whether that Layout’s name is in the list of Layouts or not. If the user’s Privilege Set has access to see that Layout, then its contents are visible whether the developer ever intended for the user to view the Layout or not.

·      Return various metadata about the file, including such items as Script Names, Value List Items, Layout Names, Field Names, etc. If a user’s Privilege Set does not allow access to the item, its name does not appear in the list returned.

·      Put data into any field in the database or extract data from any field, irrespective of whether that field is on the active Layout or is on any Layout for that matter.


Here are several examples of these scripts, all working on a file named Our_Secret_Information.fmp12.


tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"


       go to first layout

end tell


tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"


       do script FileMaker script "Relog_as_Admin"

end tell


tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"


       set somevar to name of every layout

end tell


tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"


       set somevar to name of every field

end tell


tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"


       set somevar to get data field "CreditCardNumber"

end tell







The FMPURL command’s principal attack vector is that it can be used to run any Script in a file to which a user’s privileges has access. Similar to Apple Events, this occurs irrespective of whether that script is in the list of Scripts or whether it is attached to some UI element, such as a button.

If the file is closed, the command first opens the file with supplied credentials, then runs any OnFirstWindowOpen script, and then runs the designated script from the FMPURL command.  As a result of this behavior, a Halt Script step at the end of the opening script has the effect of blocking the running of the FMPURL designated script. Some developers have utilized this technique to block FMPURL calls to scripts in a file.

However, if the file is already opened or if there is no opening script, then the designated script does run.

Here is an example of calling a script, again in our file Our_Secret_Information.fmp12 being hosted at a server at IP address


fmp:// Relog_as_Admin



—What Is the Significance Of This and

How Do We Address This?—


One of the many reasons we caution developers against embedding security elements such as Identity and Access Management controls into the data layer of FileMaker Pro databases is precisely because such elements are vulnerable to these API attacks. Think for a minute about that Relog_as_Admin script that presumably relogs into the file with a [Full Access] Account.  If an Attacker can trigger that script and cause it to run, irrespective of what the developer might have intended, then the Attacker has full access to the file. This has actually happened.

Or, suppose that a developer has made a “Developer_Only” layout in the file, removed it from the list of layouts, and left sensitive information on it. If the Attacker can navigate to that layout, and if it is not protected by settings in the Privilege Set, then the Attacker can learn the contents of the information on it.  This has actually happened in numerous instances, including unbelievably, the appearance of [Full Access] level credentials left exposed on the layout!

Likewise, suppose that a developer has made a so-called “Privileges Table” with various fields that purport to control whether a user can do such things as create records. Using the Apple Event Set Data command, an Attacker could likely change the values in these fields if they do not enjoy additional protection.  More likely even, the Attacker could simply issue a Make New Record command and create the record.  That is a process frequently used to thwart developer-imposed limitations on the number of records in a demonstration version of a vertical market solution.

So, what can be done to manage this situation and to prevent these type attacks?  In FileMaker® Pro 15, FileMaker, Inc. added a new Extended Privilege option in the Privilege Set called fmscriptdisabled.  Developers must explicitly invoke this option; it is not a default option.  What it does is to prevent Apple Events (Macintosh OS) and ActiveX commands (Windows OS) from activating scripts, just as the name implies.  It has no impact on FMPURL or on other Apple Event commands that do not involve triggering of scripts.

Some of the other items in a Privilege Set, notably Export and data layer modification elements, can control Get Data and Set Data Apple Events.  If Export is disabled, then Get Data will not return data from the selected field. In tables where the editing privileges are restricted, likewise, Set Data will not add data to a field.  Creation and deletion privileges behave in similar fashion. Remember, we are talking here only about Apple Events.  Other processes may behave differently. Controlling API behavior is important; however, it is not the only security feature that developers must invoke to assure Confidentiality, Availability, and Integrity of their database systems.

So, clearly what we need here is a way to block these API from interacting with FileMaker Pro files. FileMaker, Inc. is aware of these issues and has been working on new ways to address them. In the Product Road Map Webinar presented on November 30th 2016, FileMaker, Inc. noted that the next version of the FileMaker Platform will contain a number of additional security enhancements. I am authorized to say that one of those enhancements will be a new process for more closely and granularly controlling several of these API’s.

At such time as there is any new version of the FileMaker Platform, I will have additional comments and analyses of the issues related to these API’s.

Steven H. Blackwell


Protecting FileMaker Platform Business Solutions

FileMaker Platform developers and FileMaker Server Administrators, as well as business data owners, need to take a variety of steps to protect the Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, and Resilience (CIAR) of their FileMaker Platform Business Solutions. Threat Agents of many varieties seek to exploit vulnerabilities that might exist in those solutions to compromise them, to steal data, to alter data, or to destroy data.

This FileMaker Security BLOG article will describe four key steps that developers and administrators can take to protect their files. Before listing those however, I want to describe an important caveat about such an approach to FileMaker platform security.

Security is never a case of “One and Done.” It is not a check list of things to do to files, and then they are and will remain secure. Business circumstances change.  We discover new vulnerabilities. Threat Agents perfect new attacks, some possibly exploiting so-called Zero Day vulnerabilities. Security is an on-going process in a constant state of flux. Maintaining security for business solutions requires constant monitoring and evaluation. All that said, however, here are four important considerations.  All employ tools that the FileMaker platform already gives us to help protect our files.


First. Use Granular Access Privileges. The FileMaker security schema allows for very specific privileges as well as for very broad ones.  For best protection and control, set the privileges and permissions for each Privilege Set very carefully.  For each business role, give the users in that role all the privileges they need for them to accomplish their business requirements.  But do not give them any added privileges.  This is called the Rule of Least Privileges, and it is fundamental to having correct security for your files.

This process may take a bit of work, and it requires you to know and to understand what users are supposed to be doing—and not doing—in the file. To do this you also need to know what permissions are on and which are off by default in each Privilege Set. When a developer creates a new Privilege Set in a file, most privileges bits are off or at their most restrictive settings by default. This is a correct and is a consistent behavior with the Rule of Lest privileges. One of the things a developer wants to achieve in working with the security schema is to prevent an otherwise authorized user from escalating his or her privileges and gaining a level of access above the prescribed one.

To that end, developers should most likely avoid in almost all situations the use of the two default subordinate level Privilege Sets: [Data Entry Only] and [Read-Only Access]. Both these contain privileges in excess of what their names suggest.  If you plan to use them, carefully review the actual privileges they grant to see if those are consistent with your security model.


Second. Invoke Encryption at Rest (EAR) on your files. This is a particularly important step; likewise, EAR offers particularly good protection, provided you use a strong encryption password.  FileMaker Pro will tell you the strength of the password: Weak, Moderate, or Strong. If someone gains access to a copy of your files by any of several attack vectors, EAR prevents their forcing the file open or employing any of the so-called “password crackers” on them.  Unauthorized possession of copies of files, including backup copies, is a particularly strong attack vector.  It is also an attack vector that Threat Agents frequently employ.


Third. Use File Access Protection to block manipulation of your files by other FileMaker Pro files you do not control. File Access Protection prevents unauthorized persons from pointing their files at yours and extracting, viewing, or manipulating information. 

An important part of effective file protection is understanding how external Application Program Interfaces (API’s) can access your FileMaker Pro business solutions and then how to control that access. This includes layout access, file metadata, and the business logic found in scripts. [You can read more about this topic here:  http://fmforums.com/blogs/entry/1535-the-filemaker-platform-api’s-are-your-friends-right/]

Some of these elements respond to fine-grain permission controls in the Privilege Set.  Others do not; hence, developers should utilize File Access Protection. Additionally it can assist in preventing users who are otherwise authorized a particular level of permissions from escalating those permissions and privileges in the file.  Escalation of privileges is a key vulnerability we must try to prevent in all instances. 


Fourth. Utilize Encryption in Transit to protect you data while they are in motion between FileMaker Server and a variety of FileMaker Platform clients such as WebDirect™, FileMaker GO, and FileMaker Pro. This is particularly important when users are accessing FileMaker Platform Business Solutions by public Wi-Fi networks such as those found in coffee shops, hotels, conference centers, malls, airports, and similar venues. For that matter it is also important when the only access is across a Local Area Network (LAN) behind a closed firewall.  Just one single rogue wireless access point on that LAN can compromise it.  Additionally anyone with access to the LAN could also intercept data in transit. Encryption in Transit also helps verify the identity of the FileMaker Server and helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks where a Threat Agent could impersonate your FileMaker Server.

I have described four FileMaker Platform security tools that developers and administrators can use to protect FileMaker Platform business solutions:

Granular Access Privileges

Encryption at Rest

File Access Protection

Encryption in Transit

I have attached a schematic that can serve as a reminder about these features. Remember when using these, that security is dynamic and on-going.  It is never a “One and Done” scenario. The FileMaker Platform provides these tools. A number of people have done a very considerable amount of work over the years to add these to the FileMaker Platform. I strongly recommend their use.


Steven H. Blackwell

The recent cyber attack on Sony Pictures serves as a new, additional, and very loud wake-up call for businesses all over the world about the need to protect digital assets. Organizations who use the FileMaker Platform to manage their businesses and whose databases contain proprietary and sensitive information, business process control methods, or financial data especially need to be diligent about data protection. If you are a small business, an education institution, a not-for-profit organization—all typical FileMaker Platform customers—you are just as much at risk as are large multi-national organizations, perhaps even more so than they are.

As I have noted before, FileMaker Platform deployed files are susceptible to one or more of six distinct types of attacks that target one or more of seven distinct types of vulnerabilities. Fortunately FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server both give developers the tools to close or to narrow dramatically these vulnerabilities. These attacks can destroy data or alter them in a subtle fashion, often a much more difficult situation to recognize initially or even at all. They can also extract data from the files.

Here are a number of specific actions FileMaker developers can take to protect their clients’ files as well as their own.

  1. Review with you clients the likely threats to their digital assets and how serious the negative impact of a breach would be to their operations, people, and reputation. If you don’t know how to do this, I can help you.
  2. Use strong passwords on all files. Such passwords are typically twelve or more alphanumeric or high ASCII characters. Whether internal to the database file or externally located on the server or on the domain controller, such passwords are much less prone to brute-force attacks or to guessing.
  3. For the Account name for a set of credentials, avoid the use of the default name Admin.
  4. Remove the FileMaker Server Sample file. Alternatively, give it a new Account name and strong password and remove the auto log-in option.
  5. Avoid having files set to log-in automatically, even to supposed lower level privileges. Unless you have done an exceptionally thorough job of restricting privileges for such an auto log-in Account, your files are vulnerable to manipulation and compromise. Moreover, use of so-called “Account Management” modules can exacerbate such vulnerabilities.
  6. Invoke File Access Protection on your files. This is one of the most important protections you can provide to the files.
  7. Encrypt the file using the new Encryption at Rest feature of FileMaker® Pro 13.
  8. Encrypt data traveling to and from FileMaker Server by selecting the encryption option in the Admin Console.
  9. Be aware that User Interface elements such as Custom Menus, “hidden” layouts, and other such items are not part of the Security Schema. Just because a field is on a layout to which the Privilege Set attached to the active Account lacks access, does not mean the contents of that field cannot be changed, deleted, or viewed. Just because a field never appears on any layout does not mean its contents can be read or changed.
  10. There are numerous ways to invoke scripts even if they do not appear in the Scripts menu or are not attached to buttons on a layout. Be sure you understand the implications to the business processes and business logic of your database if a Threat Agent (attacker) invokes a script in unexpected ways.
  11. Carefully construct granular-level Privilege Sets to help protect both the data and the structure in your database system. Protect the values used in Record Level Access tests from manipulation or change by an attacker.
  12. Be sure you understand how the so-called “Other Privileges” items in the Privilege Set definitions actually work. This is particularly true for the Print and Export privilege bits. You might believe that blocking one of these privileges in a file is sufficient to protect the data. That is not necessarily the case.

    Steven H. Blackwell
    Platinum Member Emeritus
    FileMaker Business Alliance
Steven H. Blackwell

I have recently learned that there may be any number of FileMaker Server installations world-wide that are hosting files that open automatically without credentials challenge to the [Full Access] Privilege Set. The default-installed FileMaker Server Sample File is one of these; however, there are others.

This is not such a good practice. Such files offer an attractive attack vector that a Threat Agent can use to inflict damage on the FileMaker Server machine or on its hosted files. If a Threat Agent can locate the server and access it, an attack can occur using these files.

Most attacks occur when a Threat Agent utilizes some vulnerability to mount an exploit that has some negative impact on the Confidentiality, Integrity, or Availability (CIA) of a digital asset such as a FileMaker Pro database. To that we must now add that the exploit can adversely impact the Resilience of the database system as well. We measure that negative impact of an attack along a continuum ranging from Limited to Serious to Severe to Catastrophic. In managing security in FileMaker database systems, we work to block Threat Agents, to close vulnerabilities, and to mitigate the negative impact of an attack.

I would therefore strongly recommend the following actions:

  1. If you do not need the FileMaker Server Sample File, then remove it from your server. If you do need it, give it credentials or have it open to a restricted privilege level.
  2. If you have other files that open without challenge to [Full Access] privileges, then change that process to require credentials or, at the least, to open to a restricted level of privileges.
  3. Periodically review the FileMaker Server Access Log to see if it contains evidence of unusual or unexpected access to the server. Of course, for that to work, you must enable this log in the FileMaker Server Admin Console.

It is my view that in the FileMaker community we have a responsibility to one another to help each other maintain safe systems, to avoid and to prevent attacks, and to block Threat Agents. I will continue to advise the community of security-related items from time to time.

Steven H. Blackwell

Steven H. Blackwell

Phishing Attacks on FileMaker Platform Files

Recently I made reference in several venues to an article that described a sophisticated and interesting exploit to steal iOS credentials from a stolen Apple iPhone.  You can read the full article here:


The core element of the article was that when the owner discovered the theft that he activated “…all the ‘send me email when the phone returns online’ checkboxes….”  Some eleven days later, the owner received an email and a SMS that the phone had been found. All the owner needed to do was to log-in to iCloud to see the location where the phone was.

The only problem was that the message was a spoof of iCloud.  It was a classic phishing attack designed to capture the owner’s credentials.

This episode brought back to mind an example of a similar style ruse that an attacker could possibly perpetrate against a FileMaker Pro file. I showed a brief example of this during my presentation at the 2015 DevCon.

In such an attack a Threat Agent might trick a user into believing that he or she had entered credentials incorrectly, most likely due to a mistyping.  Such so-called “fat-finger” errors occur all the time. FileMaker Pro presents the user with a dialog box advising of the error, and it asks the user to please try again.




The user then clicks the OK button and enters the credentials again. This time, the credentials work, and the user proceeds to go about his or her business in the file.

But there was no credentials failure the first time around.  The user had entered the correct credentials. One of these dialogs is real; the other is not, and it is the beginning of a phishing attack. The purpose is to trick the user into entering the credentials a second time, so that they may be captured in clear text and later used for nefarious purposes.

That subsequent credentials entry box as shown below is a bit harder to spoof than is the error message.  But when an Attacker can do that, this exploit likely will trick many users and possibly even some developers. Remember, it does not have to be perfect.  It only has to be good enough to trick the user.

Credentials Entry UI.png



This is but another reason developers and FileMaker Server Administrators must carefully review their systems to be sure that no vectors are open that could facilitate such an attack. Here are some such vectors:

  • Guest Account enabled and attached to the [Full Access] Privilege Set
  • A [Full Access] Account with no password
  • A [Full Access] Account with the password stored using the File Options “Log In Using” feature.

By default, FileMaker® Server 15 will not open such files for hosting. Administrators can authorize the hosting of such files by unchecking an option in the Server Admin Console.  I strongly recommend that they not do so. Additionally, earlier versions of FileMaker Server will host such files automatically.  Carefully audit those server for the presence of such files.


Steven H. Blackwell


Steven H. Blackwell

Permissive Versus Restrictive Privileges In FileMaker Pro Databases


Steven H. Blackwell

April 25th 2011

In older versions of FileMaker Pro, those prior to FileMaker® Pro 7, privileges were, by default, permissive. This means that users were allowed to perform all actions by default. With the introduction of the modern versions of the FileMaker Family of Products, with their appropriate focus and attention to industry standards in the security realm, the default privileges became restrictive. This means that databases privileges, especially access to tables and records, are off or restricted by default and have to be specifically enabled for a user’s Privilege Set. Even for the [Full Access] Privilege Set, privileges related to connectivity to hosted files have to be enabled by the developer.

This change began in Version 7 and has continued to the present-day FileMaker® Pro 11 where significant additional protections were added, principally File Access Protection. This is an option that developers may invoke that prevents unauthorized references to a file that could result in data manipulation, script execution, value list item extraction, and Design Function penetrations in ways most developers did not contemplate happening. Additionally, in FileMaker Pro 11, the Available menu commands options setting for a newly created subordinate Privilege Set was changed from Full to Minimum to make that privilege bit’s behavior consistent with all the others. Thus, all privilege bit settings for a newly created subordinate level Privilege Set are either off or set at the most restrictive option.

When FileMaker Pro 7 was released, these changes caused some confusion and even a bit of consternation among both new and experienced users and developers. While much of that has abated over time, it still occasionally surfaces. Yet, I would assert, the present restrictive privilege settings are the correct ones to employ. Why?

A guiding principle of information asset security is the Rule of Least Privileges. That principle holds a user should have all necessary privileges to perform his or her respective role in the database system, but no greater privileges. The FileMaker Pro Role-based Privileges System conforms to this important industry standard principle.

In older versions developers had to try to close all open avenues of access to their database systems. Frequently such actions failed simply because even experienced developers did not know all the “open windows” so to speak. They could close and lock the “front door” and often the “back door” as well. But some windows would be left wide open. This made effective security implementation difficult, threatening both client data and developer intellectual property. The modern-day version of the product closes these wide-open avenues. Now, developers, for the overwhelming part, must explicitly authorize access and privileges. This allows them to protect client’s data and business processes management as well as to secure their own intellectual property.

Preservation of Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability of digital assets, and sometimes of physical ones as well, is the over-arching purpose of information security in the modern world. FileMaker® Pro 11, the latest iteration of the product, provides more tools and features to accomplish effective security implementation than any prior version of the product. The Rule of Least Privileges is at its best implementation with the current version. I urge developers to employ these security features to their maximum effect.

Steven H. Blackwell

Steven H. Blackwell

There have been a number of reports of developers having difficulty logging into FileMaker® Pro 16 files with OAuth2 based Accounts once they have set up the services on FileMaker® Server 16.

Briefly to review, developers can now specify Amazon, Google, or Azure Active Directory Accounts to validate Identity Assertions and gain admission to the file.  However, users must understand that when using these OAuth2  Accounts that they do not enter the credentials in the normal place in the dialog.  That locale is reserved for FileMaker Accounts and legacy External Server Authentication Accounts only.

Instead, users should click the respective button for the Identity Service they are using as shown in the illustration. Once this is done, the authentication process can continue.

Steven H. Blackwell

Platinum Member Emeritus, FileMaker Business Alliance


Steven H. Blackwell

Newest Version of FileMaker Platform

Brings Significant Major Security Enhancement

FileMaker, Inc. today released the latest version of its Platform: FileMaker® Pro 13, FileMaker® Pro 13 Advanced, FileMaker® Server 13, and FileMaker® GO 13.

This release brings many significant new features to the platform including the innovative FileMaker WebDirect™ client access. But to me the most significant enhancement is Encryption of Data at Rest (EAR). Addition of this critical and key functionality completes the FileMaker Platform Security Suite:

Identity and Access Management

Role-Based Privileges

File Access Protection

Encryption of Data in Transit

Encryption of Data at Rest

More so than ever in the past, today many different Threat Agents relentlessly attack an organization’s confidential and proprietary data and are eager to steal those data. Whether by direct attack on hosted databases, by unauthorized access to backups or other copies of database files, or by other attack vectors, these incursions place data at risk. This poses significant problems for organizations, significant business reputation damage, and significant legal liabilities.

With the introduction of the new version of the FileMaker Platform, developers, administrators, and end user clients or customers now have much stronger tools to protect their files and the data those files contain. But in order fully to benefit from this new feature, developers need to understand how it works and what it supposed to do.

How does this work? Using FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced and its Developer Tools, developers or administrators may now introduce industry-standard AES-256 encryption onto FileMaker Pro files. Once FileMaker Server 13 hosts these files, then this encryption is transparent to the end user who will continue to access the files by Account Name and Password as previously.


Figure 1. Developer Tool option for file encryption.

This type of Encryption At Rest protects the physical file and its contents from a variety of attacks. As the name “At Rest” implies, this is basically when the file is closed or when an attack is directed at the physical file itself.

Developers and administrators must recognize some significant considerations when employing the new EAR feature. Here are a number of them:

1. The strength of the encryption is no better than the strength of the new Encryption Password used to encrypt the files. FileMaker Pro Advanced will report whether the Encryption Password is Weak, Moderate, or Strong. Use Strong passwords only.


Figure 2. Password Quality Dialog. Use Strong Encryption Passwords.

What are the characteristics of a strong password? Certainly length of the password is one attribute. But length alone is insufficient. Shorter passwords in some cases can be stronger than longer ones. The principal determinant of strength is the entropy of the Encryption Password. Entropy is the measurement of uncertainty of a random variable. To achieve strong FileMaker encryption passwords, developers should utilize complex passwords or passphrases with a mixture of lower and upper case alphanumeric characters and high ASCII characters. The best minimum length is probably 14 characters.

2. Encryption with EAR is for the file itself, not for data as they flow across the network from FileMaker Server 13 to various FileMaker Pro clients, including the new WebDirect. Developers and Administrators should continue to use the SSL Encryption option provided in FileMaker Server 13 to protect data in transit. This setting is found in the Admin Console, under Database Server—Security—Require Secure connections as shown here.


Figure 3. Continue to enable Encryption of Data in Transit in the FileMaker Server Admin Console as before. This is in addition to EAR.

3. Refer again to Figure 1, Developer Tool option for file encryption, and please note the text box with the Shared ID label. FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced will automatically enter a value here when the encryption process starts. That value is a simple timestamp; developers may wish to change that value to something else. The purpose of this value is to link a set of files together so that the opening process for those files does not require repeated entry of the Encryption Password.

Here is an important additional piece of information about the Shared ID. Should developers wish at some later time to add a file to a previously encrypted set of files, they must use the same Shared ID and Encryption Password as they did with the original set of files. Otherwise, there will be multiple requests for the Encryption Password.

Thus, safeguarding the Shared ID is important so that developers and administrators can properly and more easily administer encrypted file sets.

4. EAR does not take the place either of passwords or of access privileges as defined in the Privilege Set attached to the active Account. Developers must still employ these features to protect files and the data in them. EAR is not field level encryption; it does not block access to any specific field once a user opens the file. Use the settings in the Privilege Set to control user access to elements of the file.

5. EAR does not take the place of File Access Protection (introduced in FileMaker® Pro 11). Developers should still employ File Access Protection to help guard against Escalation of Privileges by otherwise authorized users or by others who manage to connect to the file. File Access Protection is enabled in the Manage Security section of the file.


Figure 4. File Access Protection.

6. Developers and Administrators should take particular care to safeguard the Encryption Password for a file or group of files. If that information is lost, you will lose the ability to open the file. Loss of the Encryption Password effectively destroys the file. Additionally, the Encryption Password will be needed if developers ever wish to remove encryption from the file. There are several ways to manage retention of these Encryption Passwords, including storing them on an encrypted external device such as a thumb drive and then locking that device away in a secure place.


Figure 5. Removing Encryption from a file requires knowledge of the Encryption Password.

All of which raises this key point about safeguarding the Encryption Passwords. If a Threat Agent, either from inside the organization or from outside of it, were to learn the Encryption Password, that Threat Agent might be able to remove the encryption from the file. So safeguard these Encryption Passwords.

There is one way to prevent the removal of encryption from a file. It is irreversible and permanent, so developers should use it only after exercising serious thought about possible ramifications. This is true even though the Developer Tool makes a copy of the file when it encrypts it, leaving the original intact. If the encrypted copy is put into production, it might not be possible later to extract data from the production copy to be re-introduced into another copy of the original file.

If, after encrypting the file, a developer uses the Tool also to remove the [Full Access] Accounts, then that file’s encryption is permanent. It cannot be removed, because a [Full Access] Account and password are no longer available. So exercise caution in this area.

In summary, FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced and FileMaker Server 13 bring new capability to protect files and their data with the introduction of industry standard Encryption At Rest. This new capability rounds out the Security Suite of the FileMaker Platform along with Identity and Access Management, Role-Based Security, File Access Protection, and Encryption of Data in Transit.

By employing EAR, developers and administrators of FileMaker systems can help to protect their hosted files, their backups, and any other copies of the files from a variety of attacks that will result in data loss.

For developers who support business areas with regulatory compliance requirements related to data confidentiality, the new EAR will make securing the file much easier. It can also provide increased confidence in the solution's ability to meet those regulatory requirements. For files containing sensitive, confidential, or proprietary data, I strongly recommend employing EAR. However, almost all business solutions need to protect their data; every developer should, therefore, employ the use of Encryption at Rest.


Steven H. Blackwell

Steven H. Blackwell

The release of Version 15 of the FileMaker Platform brings with it a number of new security features, both in FileMaker® Server 15 and in FileMaker® Pro 15.  FileMaker® Pro 15 Advanced also has one notable security enhancement.

I have attached to this BLOG post a new White Paper that details and explains a number of these new features as well as offers some recommendations for their effective use. First however, we should take note that in the past several releases that FileMaker, Inc. has become more conscious about security issues and about equipping all the products with more features to enhance the Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, and Resilience (CIAR) of FileMaker Platform solutions and their deployments. This is a highly welcomed development.



Steven H. Blackwell

Steven H. Blackwell


New Paradigms In FileMaker Platform Security

October 19th 2015



Traditionally, the framework for Information Security management has focused on activities designed to preserve the Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA) of digital assets, and, on occasion, of physical IT infrastructure assets. That focus must now shift; in fact, it is already shifting.


By way of a brief review, CIA focuses on three elements:


         Confidentiality focuses on preventing unauthorized access to data and viewing of those data;


         Integrity focuses on assuring that data cannot be manipulated or altered by unauthorized processes; and,


         Availability focuses on assuring that data are present and ready for use, and not purposefully or inadvertently destroyed or otherwise made inaccessible.


When a breach occurs, it creates an adverse impact on the People, Assets, Operations, and Reputation of the organization that suffered the breach. There are four levels of adverse impact: Limited, Serious, Severe, and Catastrophic.


This traditional approach to Information Security concentrated a lot of attention on the physical infrastructure of networks, servers, files, firewalls, and similar items. The underlying theory here is that protecting the digital asset mandates blocking attackers from entering the network infrastructure. That is still a legitimate and valid concern and requirement.  But it is no longer sufficient just to block access.  We must now shift and expand our focus to other elements.


FileMaker developers and FileMaker Server Administrators have two core security missions now.  The first is to guard the data themselves at the data level; the second is to provide for Resilience of systems after they are attacked and likely are breached. So, in addition to the traditional–and still useful—CIA, we now have CIAR.


Ponemon Institute, the renown security analytics company, offers an excellent definition of Resilience as an organization’s:


“…capacity…to maintain…[its] core purpose and integrity in the face of cyberattacks.”


Such an approach presumes that cyberattacks directed towards FileMaker hosted systems will occur, and that such attacks likely will succeed. In the face of these attacks, organizations deploying the FileMaker Platform must be able to continue to operate at something highly resembling normal levels. They must also, as a condition precedent to that requirement, be able to have restored their system and quickly to have detected and recognized an attack when it first occurs.  An organization’s success in all these ventures will vary depending on the type and the severity of the breach and to an even greater extent on the level of its preparedness.




—Causes of Breaches in FileMaker Platform Systems—


There are four major causes of breaches in FileMaker Platform systems:


1.                              Vulnerabilities in the software.  FileMaker, Inc. works on these and reports fixes from time to time. See http://thefmkb.com/13585


2.                              Misconfiguration of the software, especially FileMaker Server, but the other products as well.


3.                              Failure by developers to use the security tools provided in the products, especially Encryption at Rest (EAR), File Access Protection, finely-grained Privilege Sets, Encryption in Transit, and strong passwords.


4.                              Invention by developers of their own artificial (ersatz) “security” systems.  These contrivances detract from actual security and weaken it.  This includes such practices as “scripted security” processes, artificial authentication systems, storage of passwords in data elements, use of On-Open scripts to enforce privilege management, equating User Interface elements with actual security, and similar practices.




—How To Promote Preservation of CIAR—


How then do we promote Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, and Resilience of FileMaker Platform systems? Here are seven core elements we can use to promote CIAR.


1.                              Realize that when a cyberattack occurs, it is the Strength of the Defender, not the Strength of the Attacker, that likely will determine the outcome. These attacks will occur; breaches will ensue as a result. How an organization survives a breach, particularly a serious or greater level breach, will determine how, and whether, it is able to continue in operation.


2.                              Focus on the data; they are the critical element. We must try to protect the data at the data level so as to deny the Attacker the fruits of the attack. This includes the hosted files and all backup copies.


3.                              Employ Encryption at Rest (EAR) with a strong Encryption Password. The “strength-ometer” in FileMaker Pro Advanced provides a clue as to the strength of the Encryption Password. If an Attacker exfiltrates digital assets from the network or the server, strong encryption goes a long way to preserving the Confidentiality of these data.


4.                              Properly use the tools that FileMaker, Inc. has introduced into the Platform, as previously noted.  In addition to EAR, this includes File Access Protection and finely-grained Privilege Sets. The former inhibits and blocks unauthorized access from external files into the protected file.  The latter, the finely-grained Privilege Sets, control behavior of everything from the User Interface, to scripts, to value lists, to file meta-data.  Additionally it can inhibit, although not totally restrict, unauthorized access to a file from external API’s such as Apple Events, Active X, FMPURL, XML, and PHP.


5.                              Avoid ersatz contrivances.  I have, over the past 15 or so years, seen literally hundreds and hundreds of these systems. All have introduced vulnerabilities not otherwise present. All provide rich attack vectors to compromise all or part of FileMaker Pro files. And they also impart a false sense of security and confidence that the files have adequate protection.


6.                              Thoroughly understand at a deep, hands-on level how the entire Family of Products actually works when it comes to security behaviors. Understand the vulnerabilities present in the Platform. Understand what additional vulnerabilities you introduce by failing to use the tools provided.  Understand the vulnerabilities you also introduce by using artificial contrivances. Finally, follow Best Practices.  These are there for a reason.  Furthermore, they usually have become Best Practices because of some incident that led to the compromise of CIAR.


7.                              And finally, develop a Security Incident Response Plan. When the attack is underway, when the damage is already done, it is too late, and a particularly inopportune time, to try to craft a response. Think through these items in advance; try to develop specific scenarios for response.  These will not be perfect nor totally predictable.  As Admiral William F. Halsey remarked, “No battle plan survives its first encounter with the enemy fleet.”




There are consequences flowing from failures to preserve CIAR of FileMaker Platform systems. There are regulatory strictures and penalties particularly in the health care, financial services, and education markets. There can be criminal and civil liabilities for data breaches resulting in losses and exposures. Certainly there is damage to organizational reputation and damage to customer or client relationships.  And finally, there can be business stoppages caused by breaches and loses.


Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, and Resilience of FileMaker Platform assets are important. Developers and Administrators can meet these requirements through judicious use of the tools FileMaker, Inc. provides, through a thorough and hands-on understanding of how the products work, and, through avoidance of artificial, ersatz “security” contrivances.


In the coming weeks and months and on into 2016, I will be exploring and reporting on these items related to CIAR.



Steven H. Blackwell


Steven H. Blackwell

Locks, Keys, and Lock-Picking


Steven H. Blackwell

Platinum Member Emeritus, FileMaker Business Alliance

Recently, an experienced FileMaker Pro developer posed a question on developer group list about the behavior of FileMaker Pro files. Paraphrased, that question is as follows:

We've come across a small, but possible, security issue.

If a user has clicked the "Remember my password in my keychain", 
anyone can log in to the FMP system if the person has access to the computer.

Is there a way to prevent or manage this?

First, this is a good question. It pertains both to Macintosh and to Windows OS, even though the latter doesn’t have KeyChains.

Second, this really is not a FileMaker issue per se. It’s an OS level security issue and turns on how to control unintended access to network resources (or sometimes to local ones) from an authenticated workstation. A principal use of the KeyChain with FileMaker Pro on Macintosh OS is to mimic the Single Sign On capability found with External Server Authentication on the Windows OS.

The general threat vector here is focused on a workstation left unattended and thus vulnerable to having its log-in or similar information misused to access some digital or physical resource such as a FileMaker file or a network share.

In the same thread, another developer noted you can begin a hardening process for the workstation by using the option to require a password to wake from screen saver. Expanding on that approach, you can cause further hardening by utilizing other options for workstation management. These however may be very onerous or not practical.

Third, there are ways to manage the KeyChain itself, some of which are found in an Apple Support Forum thread. https://discussions.apple.com/thread/3048021?start=0&tstart=0

Some of the information regarding FileMaker Pro contained in that Apple Forum thread is, I believe, incorrect. FileMaker Pro does not automatically store log-in credentials for a file in the KeyChain; a user must select that option. So, the question then becomes, as originally asked, how can that practice be prevented or (alternatively) how can the effects of such storage be mitigated or overridden?

In the KeyChain utility, under the Edit Menu, you can require that the LogIn KeyChain be entered after a number of minutes of inactivity. This is probably better that the screen saver option.

At one time, before the introduction of Snow Leopard and Lion, it was possible to restrict the ability for the KeyChain to work with certain applications. I do not know whether that is still the case. Perhaps someone else can state definitively.

The problem with these settings, however, is that they are accessible to the end user unless an Administrator has set up the workstations and restricted user access. So unless the organization has taken these restrictive steps, there are weaknesses to this approach.

Another way to force log-outs of the workstation, and thus require a re-authentication, is through the use of proximity devices. This procedure is employed in many organizations. Basically there is a device attached to the computer and a device attached to the user (usually a card or a USB type device). If the two devices are separated by some pre-defined distance, the workstation is forced to log-out.

Fourth, there are ways to make FileMaker Pro ignore the KeyChain and still require the user to provide credentials. The following FileMaker Pro Pro script can be used for that purpose. This presumes an auto-log-on process with an Account and password attached to a Privilege Set called “LowLow” with the script set to run on launch:

Allow User Abort [ Off ]

Set Error Capture [ On ]

If [ Exact ( Get ( AccountPrivilegeSetName ) ; "[Full Access]" ) ]

Exit Script [ ]

End If

Re-Login [ ]

If [ Exact ( Get ( AccountPrivilegeSetName ) ; "LowLow" ) ]



Close Window [ Current Window ]

// Exit Application

End If

The effect of this script is to initiate a Re-Login when the file automatically opens with the auto-login. If the Account Privilege Set Name remains that of the auto-login Account, the system responds to block access. You can have it close the window or exit altogether as you wish.

Such a script’s accessibility must be controlled through the various Privilege Sets so as to prevent its being bypassed or tampered with by an external attack. File Access Protection options in FileMaker® Pro 11 can assist in that regard. This was one very specific reason for that feature’s being implemented and designed to work as it does.

The ever-inventive Mr. Kevin Frank, a well-known and long-time FileMaker developer, has suggested an alternative scripting approach in an entry on his BLOG: http://www.filemakerhacks.com/?p=2632

Fifth, and finally, there are some actions that can act directly on the KeyChain itself. The following Apple Event script was being cited several years ago in various forums as a method to delete FileMaker Pro KeyChains. I have not tested it extensively and do not make any specific warranties about it:

set my_name to name of window 1

tell application "Keychain Scripting"


set my_keychains to (every keychain)

set {FM_keys, FM_names} to {{}, {}}

repeat with k in my_keychains

if name of k is not "System.keychain" and name of k is not "Microsoft_Intermediate_Certificates" then

unlock k

set my_keys to every generic key of k

repeat with i from 1 to count of my_keys

set key_type to creator type of item i of my_keys

if key_type is «class FMP7» then

set FM_name to name of item i of my_keys

if FM_name is my_name then

delete item i of my_keys

end if

end if

end repeat

-- lock k

end if

end repeat

end tell

There are several places where such a script might be run, including from within FileMaker Pro itself.

This is an interesting topic, and it’s one I raised in several places in FileMaker Security: The Book. I am going to take this under advisement again, and I may have more to say about it at a latter date.

Steven H. Blackwell

Hacking Your Own FileMaker Platform Solutions

Should FileMaker Platform developers mount hacking attacks on their own solutions? At first glance, this may seem an odd question. But I believe that the answer is “Yes, we should.”

Consider this. As developers we see our solutions from a totally different perspective than Threat Agents see them. Without practicing our own hacking skills, we can become blind to the vulnerabilities a Threat Agent can exploit to compromise the Confidentiality, Integrity, Availability, and Resilience (CIAR) of our deployed solutions.

I have previously observed that we need to “Think as the Attacker thinks, not as the Developer thinks.” It will be the strength of the Defender, much more so than the strength of the Attacker, that determines the outcome of a breach of any of our systems.

What are some of the vulnerabilities a Threat Agent (i.e. an Attacker) might exploit to compromise our systems?  What have we done to close those vulnerabilities and to mitigate the level of severity of impact of CIAR compromises when a breach occurs? There are a number of attack vectors to consider:

  1. If the File Access Protection option is off, then an attacker with even lower-level privileges in the targeted file may be able to print, export, view, edit, and otherwise manipulate data in the hosted solution totally outside many of the constraints that the developer has utilized.  The attacker may also be able to run scripts in the file, even if they are not attached to User Interface elements or present in the Scripts menu.  The attacker may also me able to navigate to layouts in an unexpected and unauthorized fashion. And the Attacker can extract a significant amount of metadata from the file. 

    Are the files open to access by other, rogue FileMaker Pro files? The File Access Protection feature found in the Manage Security area of the file is designed to inhibit this behavior. But the developer must explicitly invoke that option.  When it is in force, an Attacker must know a [Full Access] level password in order to define External Data Source references to our file.
  2. What about the External API’s that work in the FileMaker Platform? Have you, as the developer, considered how these might provide unauthorized and unexpected access to your files?  Some of these can be disabled via the Privilege Set bits. Examples of these include XML, PHP, ODBC, and JDBC. A Threat Agent could manipulate these and others to gain access to data and to view or to change them. An Attacker could also possibly use these to trigger scripts in an unexpected fashion.

    Other API’s are harder to control, and an attacker can use them to gain access to data, to gain access to metadata, to trigger scripts, and to manipulate the User Interface and traverse among various layouts. These, to varying degrees, include Apple Events, ActiveX, FMPURL, and ExecuteSQL. Developers can control much of this behavior through the use of very finely-grained Privilege Sets. And here is where the self-hacking aspect can play a particularly important role.  Try attacking your own files so you can spot the vulnerabilities a Threat Agent could employ using these API’s. I will have more to say about API’s in a future FileMaker Security BLOG post.
  3. If a Threat Agent can gain access to a physical copy of your file, then the Agent can mount additional attacks against it. Have you tested for this?  Use of Encryption At Rest (EAR) and removal of the [Full Access] Privilege Set and Accounts with the Developer Tool can help mitigate these type attacks. EAR is particularly effective, since even lower-level access can furnish multiple opportunities for compromise of CIAR.
  4. How easy is it for a Threat Agent to discover your FileMaker Server? In many instances, organizations need to make their servers available for access via the public Internet. The presumption should be that an Attacker can discover all such servers.  Sometimes this is as easy and as direct as entering the organization’s domain name into the hosts directory of Open Remote.  For example, www.somebody.com will frequently resolve to the public IP address of the server.  If administrators have not enabled File Access Filtering, then FileMaker Pro will display a list of available files.  If, in turn, a Threat Agent can access any of these, mischief can ensue. 

    Alternatively, through a process known as “Google-Dorking” attackers may discover enough information about a server to be able to attempt access.  So, the question is whether you, as the developer or administrator, have investigated how easy it might be to locate your server in any of these ways. It may be necessary to require authentication to access the Local Area Network by use of some process such as a VPN or two-factor authentication to protect these servers from outside access.

  5. Finally, be sure that you and the FileMaker Server Administrator have implemented a vigorous and robust back-up regimen for your FileMaker Platform deployment.  Test that you can fully restore your system from these backups; otherwise, they are not worth too much at all. Given the rise and increasing frequency of ransom-ware attacks, this is particularly important.

Speaking recently about the MedStar Hospital ransom-ware attack  (http://wtop.com/local/2016/03/medstar-paralyzed-as-hackers-take-aim-at-another-us-hospital/) one of the Editors of the SANS Bulletin (a well-known information security news letter) noted:



This case again highlights the need for good disaster recovery plans. Organizations should be planning today for how they will deal  with ransom-ware and other destructive attacks - these are no longer black swan events.


These type activities have also prompted warnings by the US and Canadian governments about ransom-ware and the need to maintain continuity of business operations in light of the threats such attacks pose.  (http://www.computerweekly.com/news/450280335/US-and-Canada-issue-joint-alert-on-ransomware)

So, Yes, do hack your own FileMaker Platform deployments.

Steven H. Blackwell


Steven H. Blackwell

Gas, Liquid, or Solid: Drive On


Steven H. Blackwell

January 3rd 2012

Happy New Year to FileMaker developers and users around the world. We have a lot of work to do in the FileMaker World in 2012, and I am eager to get started.

A very key element and requirement for the reliable and safe deployment of FileMaker Pro files is, of course, FileMaker Server. And, of all the components of a FileMaker Server deployment, none is more important, I would assert, than the quality of the hard disk drive subsystem on the server machine. In 2011 we saw a lot of discussion about Solid State Drives (SSD’s) and their use with FileMaker Server. Almost all this discussion focused on the benefits of using these drives in lieu of the more traditional block I/O hard disk drives (HDD’s). Very little attention was paid to some important nuances that should inform any decision to use SSD’s. These drives are becoming more and more prevalent, and they can offer significant advantages. However, we need a fuller picture of them. I hope this BLOG post will engender some discussion in the community about SSD’s and their use in FileMaker Server machines.

An important concept of any engineering process is to focus on stress points and potential failures. Civil engineers building a bridge do this; electrical engineers designing and constructing transformers and power grids do the same. And as developers and IT Administrators dealing with FileMaker Server hardware, we must also consider stress and failure points.

In this BLOG posting, I want to highlight several considerations you should be aware of when contemplating the use of SSD’s.

SSD’s are not new devices. Their origins are in the 1950’s era. The first modern type SSD appeared 35 years ago this year. Comparing SSD’s with the traditional HHD’s can be difficult. In the late Spring of 2011 the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) released two sets of specifications that can be used to measure SSD performance. Traditionally HDD benchmarks have tended to focus on aspects of those drives that are weak, particularly rotational latency and seek time. Since SSD’s don’t spin or seek, by comparison they seem superior to HDD’s.

But the equation isn’t that simple. SSD’s slow down after initial use once data have been written to them. The drive’s processor begins to move data around in the read-modify-erase-write cycle. The availability of free programmable blocks significantly impacts SSD write performance. Fewer blocks translate to diminished performance levels. Once the drive has data of any significant amounts, the NAND[1] flash memory at the drive’s core requires that old data be marked for deletion and then actually deleted in the “garbage collection” process.

A further refinement of this behavior has been described:[2]

SSDs have challenges with mixed reads and writes, and their performance may degrade over time. SSD testing must start from the (in use) full disk, as the new and empty (fresh out of the box) disk may have much better write performance than it would show after only weeks of use. [emphasis supplied]

SSD reliability and longevity are also influenced considerably by a process known as Write Amplification. This process has been described[3] as:

…an undesirable phenomenon associated with flash memory and solid-state drives (SSDs). Because flash memory must be erased before it can be rewritten, the process to perform these operations results in moving (or rewriting) user data and metadata more than once. This multiplying effect increases the number of writes required over the life of the SSD which shortens the time it can reliably operate.

All of which raises another interesting item. NAND flash memory cannot be overwritten. This can cause problems for software encryption programs. The encryption program cannot effectively deal with the data marked for deletion. Hardware based encryption programs do not have this problem.

SSD’s offer one instance of “…you get what you pay for…” at least in one respect. Entry grade and lower cost SSD’s have write speeds significantly lower than their read speeds. This is different than traditional HHD’s where read and write speeds are more nearly equal to one another; write is only marginally slower than read. Higher performing–and thus more expensive–SSD’s have a more balanced read and write speed comparison.

FileMaker Server, even in a modestly busy environment, does a lot of read and write between disk and cache as it sends data, receives data, encrypts data, and resolves calculations between client workstations and the server. Thus FileMaker Pro developers and IT Administrators will want to consider the read-write characteristics of SSD’s very carefully when selecting server hardware.

Developers and Administrators must also consider the Operating System running the server when selecting HHD or SSD type drives. Versions of Windows OS prior to Windows 7 are optimized for HHD’s, not SSD’s. Windows 7 is optimized for both SSD’s and HHD’s, and the OS operates differently if it detects the presence of a SSD, including disabling disk fragmentation. Windows Server 2008R2 supports SSD’s as well. Macintosh OS X 10.6.8 and 10.7 also support SSD’s. All of these very modern OS support the TRIM function as well, a feature needed to reduce garbage collection of data the OS has already determined to be no longer valid. This saves unnecessary wear and tear on the SSD.

These documents were a principal resource for preparing this BLOG entry, and I recommend a further reading:




Benchmarking Enterprise SSD’s



[1] Not AND (NAND) electronic logic gate. http://wiki.answers....t_is_NAND_flash

[2] Benchmarking Enterprise SSD’s


and see also http://en.wikipedia....lid-state_drive at Page 1.

[3] Write Amplification. http://en.wikipedia....e_amplification

Steven H. Blackwell

FMI Security Webinar

On February 11th FileMaker, Inc. presented two webinars on FileMaker Platform Security. I am highly gratified that FileMaker, Inc. did this. These webinars, conducted by Consulting Systems Engineer Rosemary Tietge, clearly laid out the case for following Best Practices for securing files and their data across all elements of the FileMaker Platform.

I want to expand on a number of recommendations about enhancing FileMaker file security from those webinars. By way of reminder from information in a previous FileMaker Security Blog post (http://fmforums.com/forum/blog/13/entry-600-assessing-threats-vulnerabilities-and-risks-to-filemaker-pro-databases/) our focus in security is to close vulnerabilities that a Threat Agent might employ to compromise the Confidentiality, Integrity, or Availability of the database. The webinars focused largely on closing some of those vulnerabilities.

First, developers secure their files against attacks by using the security features found across the platform, not by manipulating the User Interface or by adding their own contrivances.

Second, when creating a new file, developers should add a password to the [Full Access] Account FileMaker Pro automatically provides when creating a new file. Concurrently with this step, developers should remove the automatic log-in to the file using the default Account with the blank password. Failure to do so renders the file vulnerable to attack once it is hosted by FileMaker Server.

Third, there is this corollary to the point about the automatic log-in and default credentials. When developers or administrators deploy FileMaker Server, in many instances the sample file that comes with FileMaker Server is left on the server. Developers or administrators should remove this file with its automatic log-in unless there is some compelling need for it to remain. If it does remain, the Privilege Set of any automatic log-in should be a subordinate and restricted one. This file, if left unattended and unaltered, provides a direct attack vector to the FileMaker Server system. The webinars did not expressly address this item; however, it is a logical follow-on to the default credentials issue.

Fourth, developers should design a customized Privilege Set for each group of persons who will access the file and who will need to work in the file. Specific, individualized Accounts then link to this Privilege Set, and those Privilege Sets define the actions a user can and cannot take. Because FileMaker Pro follows the Rule of Least Privileges, as a general condition, the privilege bits for a given Privilege Set are turned off or set to their most restrictive level. Developers then must explicitly grant privileges for each Privilege Set. This helps assure a high level of security for the file.

Fifth, FileMaker® Pro 11 introduced a new security item: File Access Protection. Developers should control external file access to their solutions by employing the controls found in File Access Protection. This system establishes a mutual trust relationship among various files to prevent other, outside of the trust relationship, files from accessing data, schema, and other elements in a targeted file. Failure to employ this feature leaves a major vulnerability in a FileMaker Pro file.

Sixth, in conjunction with a file’s being hosted by FileMaker Server, developers and administrators should employ the Encryption In Transit feature of FileMaker Server to assure that data transferred between FileMaker Server and various clients, such as FileMaker GO and FileMaker Pro, are not susceptible to reading if intercepted.

Seventh, and new in FileMaker® Pro 13, developers should employ the Encryption At Rest feature to protect both the file and the data in it. FileMaker® Server 13 has the explicit capability to host such encrypted files and to provide seamless access to them from a variety of clients.

As a corollary to this item, the Encryption At Rest feature is no better nor any stronger than the Encryption Password a developer must create when encrypting the file. FileMaker® Pro 13 Advanced, required for this feature, will provide an analysis of Encryption Password strength, reporting Weak, Moderate, or Strong as a result. I emphatically urge the use of only Strong Encryption Passwords. Such level of strength is a result, not merely of length, but also of complexity and randomness. Thus, in some cases, a shorter Encryption Password may be stronger than a longer one. FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced will report the Encryption Password strength to you.

Finally, too often, in too many instances, developers believe they can enhance or refine the security schema and add various supposed “security features” to their files. This occurs both for vertical market solutions and for custom developed ones as well. In over two decades of working with elements of the FileMaker Platform, I can say that I have never encountered any of these enhancements that actually strengthened file security. In almost every instance, these “security features” detracted from file security, often by providing additional attack vectors into the file or into its data.

In coming weeks, I will be having a good deal more to say about these items and other issues related to FileMaker Platform security.


Steven H. Blackwell

Steven H. Blackwell

With the advent of a new Fiscal Year for the FileMaker Developer Community, we will experience five emerging trends in FileMaker Information Security.  Each of these will likely have specific impact on developers, on our clients, on the Platform, and on the larger business environment in which we operate. Cumulatively and symbiotically, the magnified impact of the five will have the potential to alter many long-standing practices and conventions.

What are these five trends?  How will they impact the developer community?  Read more and download article here:




Steven H. Blackwell


Steven H. Blackwell

April 27th--Update.

We were recently advised that a last minute change in the encryption level of secure storage resulted in that encryption's being 128 bit, not 256 bit as the attached document on Containers states. This is still a strong level of encryption.


April 4th 2012

Today’s release of FileMaker® Server 12, together with its companion FileMaker Pro and FileMaker GO products, marks another important milestone on the FileMaker, Inc. Product Roadmap.

FileMaker Server is at the center of all robust and business critical FileMaker solution deployments. It provides safe and reliable hosting of multiple files for access by multiple simultaneous users employing a variety of clients including FileMaker Pro, FileMaker GO, modern web browsers, and ODBC/JDBC savvy applications.

There is one very important caveat about all this, however. For FileMaker Server reliably and effectively to accomplish its various tasks, it must be deployed correctly, configured correctly, and managed correctly.

There are a number of new features in FileMaker Server 12; likewise there are some very significant changes in the way long-standing features function. It is very important for all FileMaker devel­opers and all IT Administrators with FileMaker Server responsibilities to be aware of these in order correctly and safely to deploy the new version of FileMaker Server.

Wim Decorte and I are pleased to present a series of Technical Narratives that discuss a variety of these topics in some depth and detail.

FileMaker® Server 12 Overview

FileMaker® Server 12 Remote Containers

FileMaker® Server 12 New SSL Features

FileMaker® Server 12 Processes

FileMaker® Server 12 Cache

FileMaker® Server 12 Backups

PDF’s of these papers are attached to this BLOG post as an archive. Simply save the Archive by clicking on the file icon and extract the Narratives. Start with the one titled Overview.


Steven H. Blackwell

Platinum Member Emeritus, FileMaker Business Alliance



Steven H. Blackwell



FileMaker Server 12 BackUps Frequently Asked Questions



FileMaker® Server 12 has a number of new features for creating backups of databases it hosts.


As evidenced by questions raised at the 2012 DevCon and as evidenced by a number of items posted on various FileMaker lists, there is a good deal of confusion still about how the new backup system works.


Wim Decorte and I have authored a short set of Frequently Asked Questions along with their answers about this topic. You can download the attached PDF that contains this information.


Among the questions we address are these:


How have backups changed in FileMaker® Server 12?


I want to schedule an incremental or progressive backup. But I can’t find where that is done? How do I schedule this?


I need to restore from the last backup. But I get an error message when I try to open the backup file directly in FileMaker Pro or host it on FileMaker Server. Are my backups broken?


Where does FileMaker Server put the actual backup copies it creates?


We hope the answers to these and to other FAQ’s about FileMaker Server 12 backups will assist the developer community and IT Administrators with FileMaker responsibilities to understand how the new systems work and how to employ them effectively.


Steven H. Blackwell


Click on the attached PDF to download the document.


September 12th 2012

Steven H. Blackwell

FileMaker Security Survey Reveals Interest and Some Confusion


During early and mid-July, I posted on FM Forums a multi-question survey asking people about their use of various FileMaker product security features. I also asked for any comments or for any recommendations they might have for enhancing product security features.

The results are interesting. They reveal a high level of use of many security features; they also indicate some areas of confusion about how security features in FileMaker products work.

Who were the people who responded to the survey? Where were they located?


Respondents said they worked in a variety of different environments:

Full time independent developer


Full time in-house developer


Work at or for a FileMaker development company


Part time in-house developer


Power user


Regular user


FileMaker hosting company



Respondents were primarily North American and European with a smaller number from other areas:



Western Europe




Australia/New Zealand


Eastern and Central Europe


Latin America/Caribbean



Security Features Respondents Utilize


One of the most important FileMaker security features is File Access Protection, introduced in FileMaker® Pro 11. This feature is vitally important for securing files and for preventing unauthorized external compromise of a database’s business logic and manipulation of the User Interface.


Respondents indicated considerable use and support for this feature:


Use File Access

Not Use

Full time independent developer



Full time in-house developer



Work at or for a FileMaker development company



Part time in-house developer





Privilege Sets are the method by which FileMaker Pro enforces and supports Role Based Privileges in files. The level of granularity for Privilege Set construction is very fine and precise.


How did respondents to the survey utilize Privilege Sets?





Generic Privilege Sets




Basic Privilege Sets




Customized Privilege Sets




Custom Extended Privileges





External Server Authentication is another key tool for effective security management of FileMaker Pro solutions, especially for multi-file systems hosted by FileMaker Server. Easing of Account management and leveraging of existing IT security assets make External Server Authentication a very important tool.




Use External Authentication of any type



External Authentication (Macintosh OS)



External Authentication (Windows OS)




The type External Server Authentication respondents say they used provides some interesting results:




Open Directory Domain



Active Directory Domain



Local Server Groups (Macintosh)



Local Server Groups (Windows)




Finally, respondents revealed widespread use of some key Record Level Access features for controlling creation, viewing, editing, and deleting of records.





Use any type RLA



View Records



Create Records



Delete Records



Edit Records




Analysis and Interpretation.


While I am wary of over-generalizations from the information provided by survey respondents, I nevertheless can offer some observations.


1.     FileMaker developers are concerned about security items. They know that systems they develop, either for clients or for their employers, can and will be subject to attacks seeking the data in the files. They also know that the business processes the databases manage can be disrupted if users are not constrained from potentially damaging actions, such as inadvertent or careless record deletion. To that end, they employ a number of the standard security features both for Identity and Access Management and for Role Based Privileges.


2.     Utilization of security features tends to cluster towards and in the Great Middle, with only 39% of respondents saying they always use customized Privilege Sets. We also see a marked differentiation between Macintosh OS and Windows OS in the use of External Server Authentication with the respective Domain Controller.

What this suggests to me is that while a significant portion of respondents have an understanding of the basic security features of the products, that only a highly diminished segment utilizes the more nuanced and advanced security features. This is unfortunate, because these features are very valuable––not to mention very flexible––in aiding creation of robust security for FileMaker Pro files. Since nearly two-thirds of respondents work full time developing FileMaker databases, this is a loss to the developer community.


3.     The relatively high level of adoption and use of the File Access Protection feature is gratifying. Particularly for the developers of commercial products based on FileMaker Pro, but for all of us as well, File Access Protection is one of the very most important features we can employ to protect our and our clients’ files. The cluster around the 37% to 38% of developers who say they do not use File Access Protection is a cause for concern. Without this feature, their files are vulnerable to manipulation and compromise.


4.     In the Comments section of the survey—about which we may have more to say at a later time—a couple of items were noteworthy. First, a number of people requested the ability to have dynamic Field Level Access similar to Record Level Access. I fully endorse that request. Second, a number of people requested that a variety of features and capabilities in the security arena be added to the products. They spoke as if the items they requested could not presently be accomplished, when, in fact, they can be. This indicates that some specialized information about these capabilities needs developing. I will undertake to do that in the coming weeks.


Finally, a word of thanks to all who participated in the FileMaker Security Survey. And a very special thanks to Stephen Dolenski of FM Forums for hosting the survey.


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