A Complete Guide to Prevent Session Hijacking and Cookie Theft

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You must have logged in to countless websites in the past, but do you know how a website keeps you log in even after you close your browser?

That is where cookies come in. Cookies are small data that store information related to your preferences and credentials like bank details, addresses, usernames, passwords, etc.

Without a cookie, brands won’t be able to analyze what their users like or dislike. They won’t be able to personalize user experience based on their preferences.

Therefore, cookies are essential for the website to the user. But before cookies, a session is created.

Now, you must be wondering what it is?

    What is a session?

Each time you visit a website, enter your credentials, and log in, a session is created between your computer and the website. Whether you are opening or closing your browser, it remains valid until you decide to log out.

With every session, a set of cookies emerge known as session cookies. Each session cookie comes with a unique ID known as a session ID.

Each time you request a website for new data, it authenticates you by validating the session ID. In other words, without a session ID, you will have to enter your credentials each time you want to go from point A to B on any website.

Though cookies are not shared with anonymous third parties, websites can use them for analytics, advertisements, and a personalized experience for the user. The problem arises when the connection is not secure.

If cookies bounce from one server to another on an unencrypted network, hackers can easily steal them. They can also use MITM attacks to hijack sessions and send a request to the website on a user’s behalf.

So, what is the solution to cookie theft hacking?

Well, here are a few tips that will help answer that:

     Encrypt your Cookie data

On an unsecured network, the cookies containing data will be passed as a plain readable text. Any hacker can steal that data and use it to their advantage.

That is why you need an SSL certificate. A Secure Socket Layer certificate is a security protocol designed to encrypt data (cookies). It passes it over a secured network for communication between the user’s browser and the website’s server.

A hacker cannot see what information is getting transferred on the web.

SSL comes in different types and variants. For example, single domain wildcard SSL can protect a single primary domain and an unlimited number of subdomains up to 250 to the first level. But a multi-domain wildcard can protect multiple primary domains at a given time and an unlimited number of subdomains.

As a user, you must never accept a non-SSL website from offering to save cookies to make your experience better. They may put your data at a huge risk by allowing hackers to see what credentials you enter on a website. Cookies secured with SSL cannot be read by hackers hence, it seems secured.

Few well known certificate authorities including Sectigo, GlobalSign, Comodo that provide the best SSL certs and are 100% effective. So, if you are looking to secure unlimited subdomains then, it is recommended to buy a Comodo Positive Wildcard SSL today and protect your cookies.

      Keep your website updated

Developers are always moving to figure out potential vulnerabilities in their current software version. They immediately patch it and issue a fresh update if they find a flaw.

Updates include not only CMS but also plugins, themes, and add-ons too. Attacks are uncertain, so it is difficult to figure out the medium of attack.

That is why experts insist on keeping your software updated.

       Focus on other things too

Once you get low budgeted SSL or cheap SSL, it is time to fortify the periphery of your website. We are talking about the login page.

Login pages are most vulnerable because they are the first pages that face constant attacks. Before trying any hack, a cybercriminal would try to enter a series of passwords through bots. Such attacks are known as brute-force attacks.

Therefore, to keep your cookies protected, you must ensure that a hacker does not get to enter the wrong passwords more than thrice. Post that, their IP addresses should be blocked, and they should be restricted from entering a password without an OTP.

       Install WP security plugins

Security plugins can save the day for you. WordPress security plugins like MalCare can block all IP addresses from which attempts are made to enter malicious codes.

They also report any suspicious activity that seems to be harmful. Security plugins can help clean your website and stop hackers from causing harm.

Also, you must ask your users to enter strong passwords and keep changing them from time to time. Restrict them from entering lousy passwords that do not involve special symbols, letters, and upper-case alphabets.

       Delete cookies   

If you are a user reading this article, you should visit your chrome browser’s history and clear it.

Ensure that you tick the box containing ‘cookies and other site data’ beneath ‘browsing history.

It will clear all stored cookies, and all hacking attempts will cease. Every browser has these options in its history section, so ensure that you use them.

      Tips for user data protection

  1. If you find anything suspicious such as a website link on an email, never click on it.
  2. Do not store sensitive data on any website like credit/debit card information, bank details, addresses, and phone numbers, as hackers can use them on your behalf.
  3. Install a quality antivirus that can protect your computer system from attacks.
  4. Do not share any data with a non-SSL encrypted website.

      Final Thoughts

Where cookies can be an effective way to personalize data, they can be a tool for hackers to compromise your system.

Therefore, before you accept cookies from any website, it would be best if you could check whether they have HTTPS encryption or not.

If a website displays a gray padlock, it is secured by SSL, and you can trust it with your data. In that case, you can accept cookies.

So, follow these five tips and create a secure environment for your users.

Picture of Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo

Kossi Adzo is a technology enthusiast and digital strategist with a fervent passion for Apple products and the innovative technologies that orbit them. With a background in computer science and a decade of experience in app development and digital marketing, Kossi brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique perspective to the Apple Gazette team.

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