Session Sidejacking
Attack Pattern ID: 102 (Standard Attack Pattern Completeness: Complete)Typical Severity: HighStatus: Draft
+ Description


ss network.

Attack Execution Flow

  1. Detect Unprotected Session Token Transfer:

    The attacker sniffs on the wireless network to detect unencrypted traffic that contains session tokens.

    Attack Step Techniques

    IDAttack Step Technique DescriptionEnvironments

    The attacker uses a network sniffer tool like ferret or hampster to monitor the wireless traffic at a WiFi hotspot while examining it for evidence of transmittal of session tokens in unencrypted or recognizably encrypted form. An attacker applies his knowledge of the manner by which session tokens are generated and transmitted by various target systems to identify the session tokens.



    IDtypeIndicator DescriptionEnvironments

    The attacker and the victim are both on the same WiFi network.

    env-Web env-ClientServer

    Traffic between the victim and targeted application is unencrypted.

    env-Web env-ClientServer


    IDtypeOutcome Description
    The attacker sees session tokens in the unencrypted traffic
  1. Capture session token:

    The attacker uses sniffing tools to capture a session token from traffic.

  2. Insert captured session token:

    The attacker attempts to insert a captured session token into communication with the targeted application to confirm viability for exploitation.

  1. Session Token Exploitation:

    The attacker leverages the captured session token to interact with the targeted application in a malicious fashion, impersonating the victim.

    Security Controls

    IDtypeSecurity Control Description
    Utilize end to end encrypted communication via a secure tunneling protocol between the victim and the target system.
+ Attack Prerequisites

An attacker and the victim are both using the same WiFi network.

The victim has an active session with a target system.

The victim is not using a secure channel to communicate with the target system (e.g. SSL, VPN, etc.)

The victim initiated communication with a target system that requires transfer of the session token or the target application uses AJAX and thereby periodically "rings home" asynchronously using the session token

+ Typical Likelihood of Exploit

Likelihood: High

+ Methods of Attack
  • Time and State
  • Analysis
  • Spoofing
  • Protocol Manipulation
+ Examples-Instances


The attacker and the victim are using the same WiFi public hotspot. When the victim connects to the hotspot, he has a hosted e-mail account open. This e-mail account uses AJAX on the client side which periodically asynchronously connects to the server side and transfers, amongst other things, the user's session token to the server. The communication is supposed to happen over HTTPS. However, the configuration in the public hotspot initially disallows the HTTPS connection (or any other connection) between the victim and the hosted e-mail servers because the victim first needs to register with the hotspot. The victim does so, but his e-mail client already defaulted to using a connection without HTTPS, since it was denied access the first time. Victim's session token is now flowing unencrypted between the victim's browser and the hosted e-mail servers. The attacker leverages this opportunity to capture the session token and gain access to the victim's hosted e-mail account.

+ Attacker Skills or Knowledge Required

Skill or Knowledge Level: Low

Easy to use tools exist to automate this attack.

+ Resources Required

Low: A laptop and access to a public WiFi network.

+ Probing Techniques

Use available tools to snoop on communications between the victim and the target system and try to capture the transmitted session token

Use the captured session token to impersonate the victim on the target system to perform actions and view information on their behalf.

+ Solutions and Mitigations

Make sure that HTTPS is used to communicate with the target system. Alternatively, use VPN if possible. It is importnat to ensure that all communication between the client and the server happens via an encrypted secure channel.

Modify the session token with each transmission and protect it with cryptography. Add the idea of request sequencing that gives the server an ability to detect replay attacks.

+ Attack Motivation-Consequences
  • Privilege Escalation
  • Data Modification
  • Information Leakage
  • Denial of Service
+ Related Weaknesses
CWE-IDWeakness NameWeakness Relationship Type
294Authentication Bypass by Capture-replayTargeted
522Insufficiently Protected CredentialsTargeted
523Unprotected Transport of CredentialsTargeted
319Cleartext Transmission of Sensitive InformationTargeted
614Sensitive Cookie in HTTPS Session Without 'Secure' AttributeSecondary
+ Related Attack Patterns
NatureTypeIDNameDescriptionView(s) this relationship pertains toView\(s\)
ChildOfAttack PatternAttack Pattern21Exploitation of Session Variables, Resource IDs and other Trusted Credentials 
Mechanism of Attack (primary)1000
+ Relevant Security Requirements

Ensure that SSL is used for all communication between the client and the target system where sensitive data and/or operations are available.

Ensure that session cookies are only transmitted via SSL pipes by setting the cookie's secure attribute to true.

+ Related Security Principles
  • Protect Sensitive Data in Transit

+ Purposes
  • Exploitation
+ CIA Impact
Confidentiality Impact: HighIntegrity Impact: HighAvailability Impact: Low
+ Technical Context
Architectural Paradigms
+ Content History
Evgeny LebanidzeCigital, Inc2009-01-12Initial core pattern content
Sean BarnumCigital Federal, Inc.2009-04-20Refinement of pattern content