Websites we visit use cookies to store confidential data. But these cookies can be stolen by third parties, such as hackers, and used to access your accounts. Cookie stealing can put both website owners and website users at risk. Cookies store browsing history, login information, ad preferences, and more. While cookies are very commonly and widely used on the internet, there are many instances where cookies get stolen.

You may have to deal with some serious headaches if you become a victim of cookie stealing. As a website owner, you may lose your visitors’ trust and your revenue. For a website visitor, you may lose your credit card information and other sensitive information as a result of cookie stealing.

So, it is important to be informed on cookie stealing and hijacking sessions to avoid such attacks. This article explains how cookies are stolen, how sessions are hijacked and how to prevent them from happening.

What Is Cookie Stealing?

Cookie stealing is where hackers steal your cookies that contain information like your login credentials and other information that contain your interactions with a website. Cookies are more like tiny bits of data. Websites of all kinds track their visitors’ journey using cookies. Shopping websites, for example, will track what products their customers have searched for, pages they visited, products they purchased, and products they still have in their cart.

Cookies provide information on what pages users visit and the duration they stayed on the page. Website admins can use this information to make changes to their website based on the preferences of their visitors. Cookies will also help with displaying relevant ads. This way, cookies make things easy for website owners because these ads preferences, etc will help boost engagement and increase sales. Likewise, for website users, cookies will let them have a personalized website experience.

What Are Cookies Used For?

As mentioned above, cookies store information like login information, credit card information, and more. A cookie will help you save time by remembering website login information so that you won’t need type it each time you visit a website. This does not mean they directly display passwords – they use a hash to store passwords ( i.e., the passwords will be scrambled). These scrambled passwords can be read only by the websites they came from. These websites will encode and decode the hash using an encryption algorithm.

What is Session Hijacking?

When attackers take over users’ sessions, it’s called session hijacking. This happens when hackers take advantage of active sessions. By stealing HTTP cookies from your session, hackers can maintain the same session. In a similar manner, by stealing cookies, they can use your credentials to access information on a remote web server. You start a session on a website when you log in and the session ends when you log out. Hackers take over active sessions without users even knowing. Once they do that, they will have the same access as the compromised user. From there, the hacker can steal all types of personal information.

How to Prevent Cookie Stealing and Session Hijacking?

Session IDs are generally stolen when hackers install malicious codes on websites. This is how they hijack sessions and steal cookies. Websites will have to take the necessary precautions to prevent session hijacking. You can take a few steps to prevent this from happening. A few ways to prevent session hijacking is by installing antivirus software and anti-malware software. Likewise, you will need to keep the software up to date to prevent session hijacking. Here are some common ways to prevent session hijacking.

  • Using an SSL/TLS certificate is one of the best and easiest ways to secure your website. SSL certificates will help you avoid session hijacking. It is recommended that you make all the pages of your website encrypted.
  • You can use anti-malware software on server-side as well as on client-side machines to prevent hackers from installing software that can steal cookies on your system.
  • Make sure you log out of websites immediately after you use them.
  • You can use the secure flag to instruct the user’s browser to send cookies only via HTTPS and not HTTP. This way, you can prevent attackers from viewing your cookies when they are transmitted.
  • Using long session IDs and strings as session IDs is another way to prevent session hijacking.

Wrapping Up

There are many security measures to prevent cookie stealing and hijacking sessions. By implementing these measures, you can keep such session hijacking and cookie stealing at bay. The best security measure is to use HTTPS aka securing your website with an SSL certificate.