A session is a collection of intercommunications between a consumer and an application within a given timeframe. For example, when a consumer performs a new standard login, it creates a user session, and the session determines if the consumer is authenticated each time a request is made.
An individual session can contain multiple activities, for example, events, social interactions, page views, and ecommerce transactions—all of which the session stores tentatively while the consumer is logged in.
Generally, if a consumer leaves a website or closes the browser, their session ends. However, to prevent consumers from logging in every time they return, “Remember Me” helps the applications extend sessions by storing session information in a cookie.
Sessions will end when a consumer logs out or when the session lifetime limit is completed. In addition, “Force Logout” can also cause sessions to expire.
A unique identifier key is generated after the successful authentication of a consumer for a particular duration only. It is unique to each authenticated consumer and is different even when the same consumer authenticates the next time.
It is used to perform various actions such as retrieve, update, delete, and more on the authenticated consumer's profile.
You might have seen a check box with remember me on it on several websites during login. If you have checked that you can stay logged in to your account even after you have closed the browser, this allows you to stay logged in until the user session expires.
After Password Reset or Password Change, it will expire all active sessions of the respective consumer account except the session in which the Password has been reset/changed.
Implementing proper session management usually increases the strength and security of the session token. And if you have not implemented it, then many vulnerabilities can be introduced with insecure session cookies that attackers can leverage to benefit an authenticated user session.
Attackers can take measures against Brute Force. They can predict and expose session tokens which ultimately can lead to session hijacking, where the malicious consumer can impersonate the victim and complete transactions from their account.
So to avoid such instances, we use session management so we can adequately secure the session, which helps to provide robust protection against session hijacking.
There are various aspects to implementing proper session management. The following are some of the best practices to mitigate potential compromise.
- Set secure/HttpOnly flags on your cookies.
- Generate new session cookies.
- Configure session cookies properly.
Avoid sending delicate traffic and tokens across an unencrypted channel. This can be enforced by establishing the Secure flag, ensuring that data will only be transported over HTTPS.
It would be best to always keep in mind that all new session tokens should be generated at every session as soon as a consumer visits the application, verifies the correct credentials, and logs out of their account.
A cookie should expire if the account is inactive for an extended period of time, and you should bind the consumer to re-authenticate. Also, it should apply to changes in state, meaning the cookie should automatically be destroyed when the session transitions from anonymous to authenticated or vice versa.
Session tokens should be extended, random, and uncommon. These properties can ensure that an attacker cannot guess or brute force the session token's value. Additionally, the termination on persistent cookies should be set for no longer than 30 minutes, limiting the session fixation and hijacking and we can achieve this by modifying the Expire and Max-Age attributes.
If no content is selected for the Expire or Max-Age attributes, the cookie will not persist in the consumer's browser and is expelled while the tab or browser is closed.
It is also recommended that the scope of domains that can access the session cookie is limited and restrictive. This is controlled by the Domain and Path attributes.
In this blog, we have tried to explain user session management in an easy-to-grasp language. Typically managing a session starts when consumers verify their identity using a password or another authentication protocol and what best practices we need to follow to make a secure session. Also, we have gained information on how to mitigate the potential risk of session hijacking.