1Password for Teams and Families incompatible with VPNs

One of the services for which I’ve truly been happy to pay is 1Password for Families, which allows my wife and I to centrally manage information vaults that are shared among ourselves, and among our kids, across all our Mac and iOS devices.

Some time ago, I wrote about how I secure our home network with a VPN. After doing that, we began having to frequently respond to CAPTCHAs when accessing any website that uses the CloudFlare security platform, as CloudFlare (understandably) doesn’t trust the IP addresses of the Private Internet Access VPN service that we use. This is an annoyance, but certainly something we can live with.

Unfortunately, however, I recently discovered that all of our 1Password applications (iOS and Mac) have stopped syncing their data with 1Password’s servers. And to make matters worse, the apps don’t provide any feedback to the user that synchronization has failed! It was only after removing a Families account from one of the devices, and trying to add it back did I finally see a “No response from server” error.

My experience with CloudFlare-managed websites immediately let me to suspect that 1Password had their client API sitting behind CloudFlare, and an email to 1Password support confirmed this:

After reviewing the situation with his colleagues at 1Password, however, he then followed up to say that, sorry, but it looks like their service is just incompatible with Private Internet Access:

Right now, because so few users are affected by this, 1Password’s response is just: “Sorry, you can’t use our service if you’re going to use a VPN.” This seems short-sighted for the following reasons:

  1. The problem doesn’t only affect users on Private Internet Access IP addresses. It affects users on any IP address that CloudFlare distrusts. Currently that’s at least PIA users, and almost certainly includes other popular VPN providers. But over time, one can certainly expect that set of IP addresses will expand.
  2. More fundamentally, when accessing a website, CloudFlare provides a means by which a legitimate user on a distrusted IP address can successfully get through—by responding to a CAPTCHA. In other words, there’s a model in place by CloudFlare that anticipates false positives. If you’re going to put your software API in front of CloudFlare, as 1Password has done, then you must also engineer a model and user experience that accounts for false positives. (Perhaps CloudFlare offers a mechanism to surface a CAPTCHA like mechanism to the human user of an app that’s getting trapped on its API by CloudFlare.)

Hopefully, the team at 1Password will reconsider the situation, and find a solution.

3 thoughts on “1Password for Teams and Families incompatible with VPNs”

  1. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for taking the time to write this up and sharing it with me and your readers. CloudFront does a lot of wonderful things for us, but false positives are not one of them ?

    Adding a CAPTCHA like is certainly an option and we may take that route. We need to keep in mind that we’d need to do this on all the client apps as well, so it’s not a trivial change. Hopefully we can get there.

    Cheers!

    –Dave Teare AgileBits Founder

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