Product Documentation

Cookie Consistency Check

Aug 31, 2016

The Cookie Consistency check examines cookies returned by users, to verify that they match the cookies that your web site set for that user. If a modified cookie is found, it is stripped from the request before the request is forwarded to the web server. You can also configure the Cookie Consistency check to transform all of the server cookies that it processes, by encrypting the cookies, proxying the cookies, or adding flags to the cookies. This check applies to requests and responses.

An attacker would normally modify a cookie to gain access to sensitive private information by posing as a previously authenticated user, or to cause a buffer overflow. The Buffer Overflow check protects against attempts to cause a buffer overflow by using a very long cookie. The Cookie Consistency check focuses on the first scenario.

If you use the wizard or the configuration utility, in the Modify Cookie Consistency Check dialog box, on the General tab you can enable or disable the following actions:
  • Block
  • Log
  • Learn
  • Statistics
  • Transform. If enabled, the Transform action modifies all cookies as specified in the following settings:
    • Encrypt Server Cookies. Encrypt cookies set by your web server, except for any listed in the Cookie Consistency check relaxation list, before forwarding the response to the client. Encrypted cookies are decrypted when the client sends a subsequent request, and the decrypted cookies are reinserted into the request before it is forwarded to the protected web server. Specify one of the following types of encryption:
      • None. Do not encrypt or decrypt cookies. The default.
      • Decrypt only. Decrypt encrypted cookies only. Do not encrypt cookies.
      • Encrypt session only. Encrypt session cookies only. Do not encrypt persistent cookies. Decrypt any encrypted cookies.
      • Encrypt all. Encrypt both session and persistent cookies. Decrypt any encrypted cookies.
        Note: When encrypting cookies, the application firewall adds the HttpOnly flag to the cookie. This flag prevents scripts from accessing and parsing the cookie. The flag therefore prevents a script-based virus or trojan from accessing a decrypted cookie and using that information to breach security. This is done regardless of the Flags to Add in Cookies parameter settings, which are handled independently of the Encrypt Server Cookies parameter settings.
  • Proxy Server Cookies. Proxy all non-persistent (session) cookies set by your web server, except for any listed in the Cookie Consistency check relaxation list. Cookies are proxied by using the existing application firewall session cookie. The application firewall strips session cookies set by the protected web server and saves them locally before forwarding the response to the client. When the client sends a subsequent request, the application firewall reinserts the session cookies into the request before forwarding it to the protected web server. Specify one of the following settings:
    • None. Do not proxy cookies. The default.
    • Session only. Proxy session cookies only. Do not proxy persistent cookies.
      Note: If you disable cookie proxying after having enabled it (set this value to None after it was set to Session only), cookie proxying is maintained for sessions that were established before you disabled it. You can therefore safely disable this feature while the application firewall is processing user sessions.
  • Flags to Add in Cookies. Add flags to cookies during transformation. Specify one of the following settings:
    • None. Do not add flags to cookies. The default.
    • HTTP only. Add the HttpOnly flag to all cookies. Browsers that support the HttpOnly flag do not allow scripts to access cookies that have this flag set.
    • Secure. Add the Secure flag to cookies that are to be sent only over an SSL connection. Browsers that support the Secure flag do not send the flagged cookies over an insecure connection.
    • All. Add the HttpOnly flag to all cookies, and the Secure flag to cookies that are to be sent only over an SSL connection.

If you use the command-line interface, you can enter the following commands to configure the Cookie Consistency Check:

  • set appfw profile <name> -cookieConsistencyAction [block] [learn] [log] [stats] [none]
  • set appfw profile <name> -cookieTransforms ([ON] | [OFF])
  • set appfw profile <name> -cookieEncryption ([none] | [decryptOnly] | [encryptSession] | [encryptAll])
  • set appfw profile <name> -cookieProxying ([none] | [sessionOnly])
  • set appfw profile <name> -addCookieFlags ([none] | [httpOnly] | [secure] | [all])

To specify relaxations for the Cookie Consistency check, you must use the configuration utility. On the Checks tab of the Modify Cookie Consistency Check dialog box, click Add to open the Add Cookie Consistency Check Relaxation dialog box, or select an existing relaxation and click Open to open the Modify Cookie Consistency Check Relaxation dialog box. Either dialog box provides the same options for configuring a relaxation.

Following are examples of Cookie Consistency check relaxations:

  • Logon Fields. The following expression exempts all form fields beginning with the string logon_ followed by a string of letters or numbers that is at least two characters long and no more than fifteen characters long:

    ^logon_[0-9A-Za-z]{2,15}$
  • Logon Fields (special characters). The following expression exempts all form fields beginning with the string türkçe-logon_ followed by a string of letters or numbers that is at least two characters long and no more than fifteen characters long:

    ^t\xC3\xBCrk\xC3\xA7e-logon_[0-9A-Za-z]{2,15}$
  • Arbitrary strings. Allow cookies that contain the string sc-item_, followed by the ID of an item that the user has added to his shopping cart ([0-9A-Za-z]+), a second underscore (_), and finally the number of these items he wants ([1-9][0-9]?), to be user-modifiable:

    ^sc-item_[0-9A-Za-z]+_[1-9][0-9]?$
Caution: Regular expressions are powerful. Especially if you are not thoroughly familiar with PCRE-format regular expressions, double-check any regular expressions you write. Make sure that they define exactly the URL you want to add as an exception, and nothing else. Careless use of wildcards, and especially of the dot-asterisk (.*) metacharacter/wildcard combination, can have results you do not want or expect, such as blocking access to web content that you did not intend to block or allowing an attack that the Cookie Consistency check would otherwise have blocked.

Important

In release 10.5.e (in a few interim enhancement builds prior to 59.13xx.e build) as well as in the 11.0 release (in builds prior to 65.x), application firewall processing of the Cookie header was changed. In those releases, every cookie is evaluated individually, and if the length of any one cookie received in the Cookie header exceeds the configured BufferOverflowMaxCookieLength, the Buffer Overflow violation is triggered.  As a result of this change, requests that were blocked in 10.5 and earlier release builds might be allowed, because the length of the entire cookie header is not calculated for determining the cookie length. In some situations, the total cookie size forwarded to the server might be larger than the accepted value, and the server might respond with "400 Bad Request".

Note that this change has been reverted. The behavior in the 10.5.e ->59.13xx.e and subsequent 10.5.e enhancement builds as well as in the 11.0 release 65.x and subsequent builds is now similar to that of the non-enhancement builds of release 10.5. The entire raw Cookie header is now considered when calculating the length of the cookie. Surrounding spaces and the semicolon (;) characters separating the name-value pairs are also included in determining the cookie length.

 

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Sessionless Cookie Consistency:  The cookie consistency behavior has changed in release 11.0.  In earlier releases, the cookie consistency check invokes sessionization. The cookies are stored in the session and signed. A "wlt_" suffix is appended to transient cookies and a "wlf_" suffix is appended to the persistent cookies before they are forwarded to the client. Even if the client does not return these signed wlf/wlt cookies, the application firewall uses the cookies stored in the session to perform the cookie consistency check.

In release 11.0, the cookie consistency check is sessionless. The application firewall now adds a cookie that is a hash of all the cookies tracked by the application firewall. If this hash cookie or any other tracked cookie is missing or tampered with, the application firewall strips the cookies before forwarding the request to the back end server and triggers a cookie-consistency violation. The server treats the request as a new request and sends new Set-Cookie header(s).