HTTP Cookie Hijacking in the Wild: Security and Privacy Implications
The widespread demand for online privacy, also fueled by widely-publicized demonstrations of session hijacking attacks against popular websites (see Firesheep), has spearheaded the increasing deployment of HTTPS. However, many websites still avoid ubiquitous encryption due to performance or compatibility issues. The prevailing approach in these cases is to force critical functionality and sensitive data access over encrypted connections, while allowing more innocuous functionality to be accessed over HTTP. In practice, this approach is prone to flaws that can expose sensitive information or functionality to third parties. In this work, we conduct an in-depth assessment of a diverse set of major websites and explore what functionality and information is exposed to attackers that have hijacked a user’s HTTP cookies. We identify a recurring pattern across websites with partially deployed HTTPS; service personalization inadvertently results in the exposure of private information.