Who Left Open the Cookie Jar? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Third-Party Cookie Policies

Authors: 

Gertjan Franken, Tom Van Goethem, and Wouter Joosen, imec-DistriNet, KU Leuven
Distinguished Paper Award Winner and winner of the 2018 Internet Defense Prize

Abstract: 

Nowadays, cookies are the most prominent mechanism to identify and authenticate users on the Internet. Although protected by the Same Origin Policy, popular browsers include cookies in all requests, even when these are cross-site. Unfortunately, these third-party cookies enable both cross-site attacks and third-party tracking. As a response to these nefarious consequences, various countermeasures have been developed in the form of browser extensions or even protection mechanisms that are built directly into the browser.

In this paper, we evaluate the effectiveness of these defense mechanisms by leveraging a framework that automatically evaluates the enforcement of the policies imposed to third-party requests. By applying our framework, which generates a comprehensive set of test cases covering various web mechanisms, we identify several flaws in the policy implementations of the 7 browsers and 46 browser extensions that were evaluated. We find that even built-in protection mechanisms can be circumvented by multiple novel techniques we discover. Based on these results, we argue that our proposed framework is a much-needed tool to detect bypasses and evaluate solutions to the exposed leaks. Finally, we analyze the origin of the identified bypass techniques, and find that these are due to a variety of implementation, configuration and design flaws.

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BibTeX
@inproceedings {217648,
author = {Gertjan Franken and Tom Van Goethem and Wouter Joosen},
title = {Who Left Open the Cookie Jar? A Comprehensive Evaluation of Third-Party Cookie Policies},
booktitle = {27th {USENIX} Security Symposium ({USENIX} Security 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-931971-46-1},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {151--168},
url = {https://www.usenix.org/conference/usenixsecurity18/presentation/franken},
publisher = {{USENIX} Association},
}