11.30.2018

The HTTP protocol was designed as a transport protocol to fetch and return content and to display HTML or other functions. But, HTTP wasn’t designed with authentication security top of mind. Approximately 40% of data breaches originate from attacks on web apps. And many of these breaches are preventable. HTTP header session protection as a part of your SSO solution should be at the forefront of your mind.

Access to web/SaaS applications obviously initially requires successful authentication. After your username and password are accepted, authentication between the user and web service (client/server) session is usually maintained by cookies. The cookie allows the server, after successful authentication, to identify and trust the client during the session to allow seamless access to the web service. Many web services are front ends to databases, consumer data and/or corporate user specific data. An attacker, therefore, would just need to steal the cookie to hijack the current authenticated session.

HTTP headers provide another layer of security for employees and consumers to guard against a number of attack vectors — including man-in-the-middle attacks (MIM), many cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, session hijacking, and more.

Cross-site scripting (XSS) has been a popular attack vector. In fact, it’s reported that XSS is the most common exploited vulnerability in web applications. XSS are high risk vulnerabilities where a type of code injection is used to hijack a legitimate users’ session. This isn’t a password breach, but a breach in the web session where the user has already successfully authenticated and is interacting with a web service. The HTTP session is hijacked and the attacker is now impersonating a legitimate authenticated user.

Users are vulnerable everywhere to these threats but are especially susceptible within public unsecured WiFi networks where attackers can easily extract session cookies. Certainly, you would always also prefer an HTTPS session over an HTTP session, but that won’t necessarily help mitigate some XSS security issues. You need multiple layers of protection.

HTTP header session protection is an essential component of a secure web services session; however, HTTP header session protection won’t protect against weak and reused passwords, brute force attacks, phishing attacks and other attacks against the passwords themselves. To mitigate password threats, implement strong authentication using multifactor authentication (MFA). Optimal IdM has a rock solid, agile MFA solution that was named Best MFA Solution of the Year in the GSN Homeland Security Awards.

Microsoft reports that only 4% of SaaS storage apps and 3% of SaaS collaboration apps support all HTTP headers session protection. It’s irresponsible for organizations to ignore such large, yet solvable, attack vectors.  Today’s sophisticated threat landscape for web and SaaS SSO applications require a vendor who can support modern, strong authentication by leveraging multiple HTTP session protections. Optimal IdM is that vendor. Further, Optimal IdM’s SSO solutions session support protections and encrypt data in transit and at rest.

Additional Recommendations

  • Use a rock solid SSO solution that supports many layers of HTTP session protection
  • Implement sliding sessions within web services that automatically log a user out after a period of inactivity. This will break the old authenticated session and require a new one.
  • Force session logouts at some specific interval (e.g. every 90 minutes). This is different than sliding sessions. According to U.S. Government NIST Authentication Assurance Level (AAL) standards, access to assets with higher importance should still break a valid session after a set period of time.
  • Leverage an award winning MFA solution

Contact us today to learn how Optimal IdM can assist with your access management needs.

Tags

  • The database in which all of your organization’s sensitive identity data is stored.
  • A digital ledger in which digital transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly.
  • Securely managing customer identity and profile data, and controlling customer access to applications and services.
  • The means of linking a person's electronic identity and attributes, stored across multiple distinct identity management systems.
  • A legal framework that sets guidelines for the collection and processing of personal information of individuals within the EU.
  • The policy-based centralized orchestration of user identity management and access control.
  • An authentication infrastructure that is built, hosted and managed by a third-party service provider.
  • A security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user's identity for a login or other transaction.
  • A global provider of innovative and affordable identity access management solutions. 
  • Managing and auditing account and data access by privileged users.
  • Tools and technologies for controlling user access to critical information within an organization.
  • An authentication process that allows a user to access multiple applications with one set of login credentials.