Software Developer


Authentication in Cocoa (macOS) Applications

Running privilidged code is impossible in app sandbox. But sometimes, you need administrative or sudo privilidges to perform certain tasks. For instance, vmnet.framework needs either sudo privilidges or proper signing (for which you need Apple’s blessing) to work. Unfortunately, Swift (as of 17 Jan 2021) doesn’t provide any API to get administrative privilidges for a non sandboxed app. Luckily, Swift has a really great interop with C, C++ and especially Objective-C. So, We will use good old Objective-C to request such privilidges.

  1. From XCode’s new file menu, create a new Objective-C file.

  2. It will ask if you want to create a bridging header, create one. This will add two files - one is an Objective-C file (.m extension) and the other one is the bridging header (.h extension). This file acts as the point of communication between Swift and Objective-C (or C/C++). If you want to make a function from C available in Swift, you need to add their declaration to this header.

  3. We now implement the function which calls a command, but with sudo privilidges. This function is inspired/taken from this wiki.

     #import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
     int auth (NSString *command, NSMutableArray *args, NSPipe *outputBuf) {
         @autoreleasepool {
             // Create authorization reference
             AuthorizationRef authorizationRef;
             OSStatus status;
             unsigned long numArgs = [args count];
             NSFileHandle *writer = [outputBuf fileHandleForWriting];
             status = AuthorizationCreate(NULL, kAuthorizationEmptyEnvironment, kAuthorizationFlagDefaults, &authorizationRef);
             // Run the tool using the authorization reference
             char *argList[numArgs+1];
             for (int i = 0; i < numArgs; ++i) {
                 argList[i] = [(NSString *) args[i] UTF8String];
             argList[numArgs] = NULL;
             FILE *pipe = NULL;
             status = AuthorizationExecuteWithPrivileges(authorizationRef, (char *)[command UTF8String], kAuthorizationFlagDefaults, argList, &pipe);
             // Print to standard output
             char readBuffer[128];
             if (status == errAuthorizationSuccess) {
                 for (;;) {
                     ssize_t bytesRead = read(fileno(pipe), readBuffer, sizeof(readBuffer));
                     if (bytesRead < 1) break;
                     [writer writeData: [NSData dataWithBytes:(const void *) readBuffer length: bytesRead]];
             } else {
                 NSLog(@"Authorization Result Code: %d", status);
         return 0;

    Note that instead of standard C strings, we have used NSString *, because this is the type which Swift recognizes as string. Same is the case of arrays where we have used NSMutableArray.

  4. Add the function’s declaration in the bridging header.

    #import <Foundation/Foundation.h>
    int auth (NSString *command, NSMutableArray *args, NSPipe *outputBuf);
  5. You can now call this function inside your swift files.

    let output = Pipe()
    auth("/full/path/to/executable", ["-v"], output)

Protip: The object AuthorizationRef authorizationRef can be saved as a global object and reused to make the application not ask for password everytime you want to run a privilidged command.