I used iTunes to make a backup of my iPhone. I can see the backup directory using Finder, at /Users/ronaldfischer/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup. Strangely, when doing something like

ls "/Users/ronaldfischer/Library/Application Support/MobileSync"


du -ms "/Users/ronaldfischer/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup"

I get an error message i.e. ls: MobileSync: Operation not permitted. But when I do a

ls -ld "/Users/ronaldfischer/Library/Application Support/MobileSync"

I see

drwxr-xr-x@ 3 ronaldfischer  staff  96 Sep 15 14:08 /Users/ronaldfischer/Library/Application Support/MobileSync

Hence I should have suffient permissions, plus Finder too can go into this directory without requiring me to switch to root rights.

Where does the permission problem come from?


Running xattr on the directory MobileSync showed that it has the attribute com.apple.quarantine being set. This attribute is usually set on (usually an executable) file which is downloaded from somewhere, and ensures that MacOS is asking you "Do you really trust this file?" the first time it is opened. Maybe the attribute has been set because backing up my iPhone in effect means that external programs are downloaded.

However, this is likely not the reason of the strange behaviour, because I also get an operation not permitted, when I try to remove this attribute using xattr -d. Furthermore, @Seamus said in his comment, that he did not have this attribute being set, but also has no permission. Perhaps it is a glitch in this OS version? I'm still running Mojave (10.14.6).

  • 2
    The '@' character at the end of the permissions list on /MobileSync indicates that it has extended attributes. I just looked at the same directory on my user account, and this directory does not have extended attributes. You can look at which attributes are set by using the xattr terminal command. Here's an excellent guide to using xattr command to delve further into your mystery.
    – IconDaemon
    Mar 1 '20 at 17:35
  • @IconDaemon: That oughta' be an answer :)
    – Seamus
    Mar 1 '20 at 19:19
  • 2
    Well, its a trouble shooting comment to further help user1934428 figure out why that directory has the xattr flag set. It is not an answer, per se. As I stated, the equivalent directory on my Mac does not have the xattr flag set, and I can't divine why it is happening on the OP's directory. Should the OP find out why, and fix the problem, my hope is that it is reported back and that I helped to find a solution.
    – IconDaemon
    Mar 1 '20 at 19:35
  • @IconDaemon: Yeah - it's confusing... I tried this on my Mojave and Catalina systems just now. Like the OP, ls -la gets an error: ls: MobileSync: Operation not permitted. But unlike the OP, I see no extended attributes when I do ls -ld.
    – Seamus
    Mar 2 '20 at 23:25

You'll be able to read the directory if you grant Full Disk Access to your terminal program. Apple Menu › System Preferences › Security & Privacy › Privacy › Full Disk Access.

  • The Terminal.app doesn't have "Settings". It has "Preferences", but there is no "Security&Privacy" in this menu. Only "General", "Profiles", "Window Groups" and "Encodings". This is "Terminal 2.9.5". May 8 '20 at 17:15
  • Sorry, I meant system settings. I've updated the answer.
    – duozmo
    May 8 '20 at 18:53

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