Web Application Security Guide/Session fixation

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Session fixation

In a session fixation attack, an attacker creates an unauthenticated session and then tricks a user to use and authenticate the session. As soon as the user has authenticated, the attacker can then use the session, as he knows the session id.

To prevent this type of attack

  • Regenerate (change) the session ID as soon as the user logs in (destroying the old session)
  • Prevent the attacker from making the user use his session by accepting session IDs only from cookies, not from GET or POST parameters (PHP: php.ini setting “session.use_only_cookies”)


Regenerating the ID makes the old session ID worthless to the attacker. Even if the attacker manages to fix a session, his session will never be authenticated. The second countermeasure is aimed at making it impossible to fix the session. However, XSS or similar issues with other applications on the same domain (not necessarily sub-domain!) may allow attackers to set false cookies.