Since cookies act as the only proof of a user identity, web sessions are particularly vulnerable to session hijacking attacks, where the browser run by a given user sends requests associated to the identity of another user. When n > 1 cookies are used to implement a session, there might actually be n sub-sessions running at the same website, where each cookie is used to retrieve part of the state information related to the session. Sub-session hijacking breaks the ideal view of the existence of a unique user session by selectively hijacking m sub-sessions, with m < n. This may reduce the security of the session to the security of its weakest sub-session. In this paper, we take a systematic look at the root causes of sub-session hijacking attacks and we introduce sub-session linking as a possible defense mechanism. Out of two flavors of sub-session linking desirable for security, which we call intra-scope and inter-scope sub-session linking respectively, only the former is relatively smooth to implement. Luckily, we also identify programming practices to void the need for inter-scope sub-session linking. We finally present Warden, a server-side proxy which automatically enforces intra-scope sub-session linking on incoming HTTP(S) requests, and we evaluate it in terms of protection, performances, backward compatibility and ease of deployment.

Sub-session hijacking on the web: Root causes and prevention

Calzavara, Stefano
;
Rabitti, Alvise;Bugliesi, Michele
2019

Abstract

Since cookies act as the only proof of a user identity, web sessions are particularly vulnerable to session hijacking attacks, where the browser run by a given user sends requests associated to the identity of another user. When n > 1 cookies are used to implement a session, there might actually be n sub-sessions running at the same website, where each cookie is used to retrieve part of the state information related to the session. Sub-session hijacking breaks the ideal view of the existence of a unique user session by selectively hijacking m sub-sessions, with m < n. This may reduce the security of the session to the security of its weakest sub-session. In this paper, we take a systematic look at the root causes of sub-session hijacking attacks and we introduce sub-session linking as a possible defense mechanism. Out of two flavors of sub-session linking desirable for security, which we call intra-scope and inter-scope sub-session linking respectively, only the former is relatively smooth to implement. Luckily, we also identify programming practices to void the need for inter-scope sub-session linking. We finally present Warden, a server-side proxy which automatically enforces intra-scope sub-session linking on incoming HTTP(S) requests, and we evaluate it in terms of protection, performances, backward compatibility and ease of deployment.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3713216
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