If you are using APFS sparse disk images, your data might end up going corrupt and inaccessible

APFS sparse disk images are handled improperly by macOS and because of this data may be copied in the void which will lead to data loss. This issue affects only disk image files formatted in Apple’s new filesystem format APFS, which was first used in macOS High Sierra. For those who don’t know, a disk image is a file format that contains the entire contents and structure of a disk volume.

Multiple macOS apps use this type of file format, especially backup software. A disk image file can grow as far as storage medium permits, and it will always display how much free space available is available for use.

The problem here is that APFS disk images fail to synchronize free disk space from the disk image with the real free disk space that is available on it.

This lead to a dangerous problem that might lead to significant data losses because users may be tricked to think they have free space on APFS but in reality, they don’t such data end up being copied in the void once the HDD space capacity is exceeded.

This kind of situation can easily trick a macOS user because macOS fail 2 times in a raw regarding this situation: first it fails to warn users that there is no more space on the disk image and then it fails again by displaying misleading information which consists in user being able to access the data that had been copied in the void for a brief period.

This short period in which data is still available ends up when the system is rebooted, and all the data becomes corrupted and inaccessible.

For those who want to re-create the bug, our cybersecurity specialist will walk you through step by step:

– first, create a 50 GB APFS-formatted sparse disk image that stores its data on a remote network share of 50 GB.
– copy any data to the remote network share, totaling 40 GB of data
– you will see now that the APFS disk image file is not updated and it will display 50 GB of free space
– copy another 20 GB file to the disk image
– the copy operation will end ok, and the user will still be able to access and open the files
– reboot
– the copied data will become corrupt because 10GB of data is missing

Copying files in the void is no use for any backup software, and that is why users are advised to stay away from this file format until Apple fixes this issue. APFS volumes are still a new technology and because of it is affected by flaws like this, like many other new technologies.

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