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Question

MacOS Catalina - System Preferences -> Security & Privacy -> Privacy -> Accessibility

What does granting 'control (of) your computer' include?

The following question from 2013 provides some very broad information: What does Security & Privacy/Accessibility enable? but I would greatly appreciate any more specifics that people can provide.


Background

Even if I trust an app now (no mean feat), there is always the possibility that it could suffer a supply-chain attack in the future.

I would like to understand more about the damage that an app could do if I grant it access to my Mac.


Research

I found the following page in the Apple Developer documentation: https://developer.apple.com/library/archive/documentation/LanguagesUtilities/Conceptual/MacAutomationScriptingGuide/AutomatetheUserInterface.html

It seems like one example of 'control' could be for an app to instruct Safari to open a particular (malicious) website?

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  • Bottom line, keep your data properly backed up, the system properly backed up, enable only as needed and don't live paranoid! – user3439894 Mar 30 at 20:46
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As you saw in your research, the accessibility api allows one app to control other apps on your computer, in much the same way you do with your mouse and keyboard. These apps can resize windows, click buttons, type words, copy and paste, etc.

If you want an app to be able to do any of these things for you, you will need to grant access to the accessibility api (ie, "allow it to control your computer"). If you'd rather it not have that ability, or if there's no reason for it to have that ability, deny access.

Zoom is an example of an app that I do not allow to use the accessibility API. It asks, but I don't know why, because there's no reason Zoom should ever need to click or type in my place.

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    Zoom probably requests this so that you can give remote control of your screen to somebody else on a call. Useful for pair programming etc – JBallin Mar 30 at 23:47
  • Thanks @Wowfunhappy this is a good starting point for me. I need to have a good read through Apple's documentation. – We'll See Apr 2 at 10:17
  • After a quick glance at Figure 3-1, I will be interested to find out more about what actions my malicious 'accessibility client' could carry out on other apps, and what information it could access from them. Could it request the URL from a browser's navigation bar for example like an onscreen reader? My projects list has just got longer! – We'll See Apr 2 at 10:29

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