A blog named for the muse of Astronomy containing musings by an astronomer

HINT: What to do when Keychain-using Apps lock up

Posted on August 08, 2007 by Juan

Like many Macintosh users, the first few months of using MacOS X I wasn’t even aware of what the Keychain really was. After a while, you realize just what a cool little piece of security it is. It ensures many MacOS X programs can securely store passwords and other information without the programmer having to be a great cryptographic genius.

One of my favorite programs which exploits this is 1Passwd. 1Passwd stores all your web form passwords (and any other data you care to secure, like credit card numbers or software serial numbers) in a Keychain, so the cryptography is managed by Apple’s Keychain. Recently, on my iMac at home, 1Passwd started locking up whenever it tried to access it’s keychain. Specifically, I have updated 1Passwd so it presented me with a dialog to allow the updated version access to the Keychain. When I clicked continue, the dreaded rainbox beachball of doom showed up and would not go away. From that point on, logins to the machine failed and most Apps using the keychain were unable to use the keychain.

I checked the system usage from the command line

top -u -s 5

and discovered a program called securityd was eating up CPU cycles and RAM. I called up the manual page on securityd via the command line:
man securityd

and discovered:

securityd maintains security contexts and arbitrates cryptographic operations and Security Authorizations. Access to keychain items is routed through securityd to enforce access controls and to keep private keys out of user process address space. Authorization calls also communicate with securityd to enforce rules contained in the /etc/authorization database. All user interaction with securityd is mediated through the Security Agent.

So by locking up securityd, I was messing up all the cryptographic operations that ran through it. Great. I figured there had to be a corrupted file on my computer that was mucking up the works, but where. My first thought was a corrupted keychain file, so I checked out my keychains using the “Keychain First Aid” item in the Keychain Access (in /Applications/Utilities) [shown in the figure below].

Keychain Access Example

The files all checked out as intact, so that wasn’t it. Something was corrupted on my computer, but what.

Just a Google search on “securityd” later, I found the solution on the Unsanity programmers blog in an article titled “Fix for securityd hogging RAM when reauthorizing apps’ Keychain access“. In a nutshell, the corrupted file is a cryptographic database at /var/db/CodeEquivalenceDatabase. In order to fix this problem they suggest:

just open the Terminal (/Applications/Utilities/Terminal) and type:

sudo mv /var/db/CodeEquivalenceDatabase /var/db/CodeEquivalenceDatabase.old

Upon rebooting, God should be in His Heaven and all should be well with the keychain.

And I verified this worked to fix my iMac and all the Keychain apps are happy again. Excellent!

1 to “HINT: What to do when Keychain-using Apps lock up”

  1. dteare says:
    I'm glad you found the answer to this problem. Those Unsanity guys are life savers! 🙂 This Apple bug has bitten several of our customers and AFAIK there is nothing we can do about it to prevent it from happening. Hopefully Apple fixes this soon as it can be really confusing. In the meantime, thankfully Unsanity's fix is fairly straight forward. Cheers! Dave Teare (Co-author of 1Passwd)

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