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RE: Browser refresh sends username/password after log out -- URGENT
From: Ingo Struck (ingoingostruck.de)
Date: Tue Aug 05 2003 - 07:56:52 CDT
See my comments inline.
> 1) - 5)
I guess anybody in this lists knows that... ;o)
> 6) Can anyone explain this behaviour and how to
> avoid the resubmission of the credentials.
What you see here is a "feature" of most today's browsers.
The reason for that is the idea of a history: you should be
able to move back and forth in the browsers history and see
exactly the "content" that you saw before.
For GET reqs this is not a problem, because all necessary
parameters are encoded in the URL. For POST, however, it
is necessary to memorize the posted parameters to be able
to reconstruct the result of a former request. So it is indeed
an exact copy of the former request that is issued if you click
ok in the confirmation dialog. This dialog exists exactly because
it may be unwanted to "replay" that former request.
> 7) How many requests does the browser window store
> in its temporary cache.
I haven't heard of any browser with full-automatic persistent
storage of submitted form data.
If you close your browser, all POSTed parameters are lost.
However, most modern browsers, provide a facility to store
form data permanently. Some of them seem to set that as
a default, but all of them that I know ask before they store form
data and allow to switch off that thing completely.
Your problem is only an issue for "shared" browsers, i.e. machines
where the browser is shared by multiple users (e.g. icafes, highschool,
The solution for your problem is two-way:
1) inform your users that it is a *VERY HIGH RISK* to use public
browsers for banking anyway and advise them *NOT TO DO THAT*
2) use a technical work around for the problem.
There are two main approaches, where the first is more common and
the second is more secure.
Work-Around I) (not recommended, using pop-up windows to break
the browser's history)
You may work around the problem if you place the login dialog
in a pop-up window, since that breaks the browser's history.
I know many libraries doing that for their online-accounts.
The mechanism is like that:
a) for the login, pop up a new browser window
b) after login finished close that new window
To be perfectly sure that nothing went wrong, you should break the
browser's history during logout too:
c) for logoff, pop up a new browser window
d) close *all* other open browser window
An alternative is to run the complete application within a new pop-up
window, that is then closed upon logoff. That breaks browser's history
Of course, popping up a window is an absolute NO-GOs regarding
usability, but it may be necessary as a security work-around.
The main drawback of this solution is, that you need to enable scripting,
which by itself is a security problem.
Work-Around II) (recommended, works with transaction tokens)
Add a per-request token for each submitted form.
The mechanism is like that:
a) for each new session generate a random number in the lower half
of the number range (e.g. 0 up to 1/2 MAX_INT), store that number
in the session, it is your CURRENT TRANSACTION
c) for each response that leads to a form using POST,
encrypt the CURRENT TRANSACTION and send it as a hidden field within
the form that needs input, this is your TRANSACTION TOKEN
e) for each request that contains a TRANSACTION TOKEN, decrypt that token,
parse it to a number and compare the result to the CURRENT TRANSACTION.
If they are both equal, then you received a correct transaction so you
i) increase the CURRENT TRANSACTION in the session (this is vital!)
ii) process the request
Else the transaction is illegal and you can ignore the request.
You could create completely random transaction tokens as well (saves the
of encrypting the numbers), but then you run into the probability that you
replicate some old transaction, if you RNG is poor.
Hope that helped and kind regards