As far as I understand the original posting, you can download any file from Dropbox's servers if you know its Dropbox hash, which apparently is a sequence of SHA256 hashes of 4MB blocks.
If you have a sub-4MB sensitive file, and you publish its SHA256, and the Dropbox protocol applies the hash function in the same way as file hashing tools (e.g. doesn't include a tag meaning "this hash is computed particularly for Dropbox deduplication" into the SHA computation), yes, then apparently people can download your file.
However, I rarely see SHA256 checksums along with download links; more SHA1 and MD5.
That's still a bit worrying though; do people stop to consider that publishing a SHA256 hash bears the risk of being equivalent of publishing the file itself (assuming someone uploads it to dropbox)?
Another related attack could be to start with a known file (say, your employment contract), swap out the name with a colleague and generate a bunch of files with different salary amounts, essentially bruteforcing sha256 sums. If dropbox suddenly coughs up a file, you've revealed his salary!
Assuming you know the exact structure of the file this would be a perfectly valid attack. There could be a lot of variance in rich formats like PDF files from things like compression, etc, so this might be expensive to perform on non-plaintext files.
Dropbox effectively acts as an "existence oracle". You can't ask it to cough up a file you don't have, but you can ask it if a given file exists anywhere in the system.
This would be an effective way for law enforcement or copyright civil enforcement to check for content that is clearly illegal or a certainly copyright violation to possess. They would need to query for a set of hashes of the given illegal content. If any matches returned positive data, they would be able to issue a subpoena for all users who stored the given content in their dropbox folder and pursue them further.
> for content that is clearly illegal or a certainly copyright violation to possess
How can something be "clearly" a violation? If I have an album, but copy someone else's rip instead of making my own - is that "clearly" a violation? Alternatively if I used the same application, I'd probably obtain the exact same file - is that clearly a violation too?
(grooveshark kind of operates on the assumption that it's ok)
Just read the reappeared sourcecode (assuming it works as advertised): The hash is an SHA256 of pure 4MB blocks in the input file. They add no message type information which could prevent mixups between Dropbox-deduplication hashes and hashes computed for other purposes.
The following dropship file was assembled using only shasum, ls and vi: