Visible to the public Half-Baked Cookies: Hardening Cookie-Based Authentication for the Modern Web

TitleHalf-Baked Cookies: Hardening Cookie-Based Authentication for the Modern Web
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsMundada, Yogesh, Feamster, Nick, Krishnamurthy, Balachander
Conference NameProceedings of the 11th ACM on Asia Conference on Computer and Communications Security
Date PublishedMay 2016
Conference LocationNew York, NY, USA
ISBN Number978-1-4503-4233-9
Keywordsbrowser cookies, browser security, Human Behavior, pubcrawl, Resiliency, Scalability, Web Application Security

Modern websites use multiple authentication cookies to allow visitors to the site different levels of access. The complexity of modern web applications can make it difficult for a web application programmer to ensure that the use of authentication cookies does not introduce vulnerabilities. Even when a programmer has access to all of the source code, this analysis can be challenging; the problem becomes even more vexing when web programmers cobble together off-the-shelf libraries to implement authentication. We have assembled a checklist for modern web programmers to verify that the cookie based authentication mechanism is securely implemented. Then, we developed a tool, Newton, to help a web application programmer to identify authentication cookies for specific parts of the website and to verify that they are securely implemented according to the checklist. We used Newton to analyze 149 sites, including the Alexa top-200 and many other popular sites across a range of categories including search, shopping, and finance. We found that 113 of them--including high-profile sites such as Yahoo, Amazon, and Fidelity--were vulnerable to hijacking attacks. Many websites have already acknowledged and fixed the vulnerabilities that we found using Newton and reported to them.

Citation Keymundada_half-baked_2016