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Cookies - The First Defense
Introduction
The main objective to present a simple and short Use Case, quick analysis of the issues and subject background. We are also presenting the architect to address the Use Case.

Use Case:
              Cookies and Security


Description:
How can Cookies be used as a first stage of web security?

Briefly Describe This Use Case
Cookies can be used as a security parameter(s) on web, mobile or any new technologies. They also can help with the personalization and customization of web pages. Vendors can share cookies to service their common clients.

Primary Actor:
Site visitor or client

Goals:
Our architect should present a quick solution to handle web, mobile or any technologies used; it should also support the implementation of personalization, customization and first security layer. Cookies should be shared by different vendors to handle personalization, customization without any security risk.

Analysis
What is a Cookie?
An HTTP cookie is a small piece of data (string) sent from a site (web server) to a user's web browser. Every time the user visits the site, the browser sends the cookie back to the server to notify the user's previous activity. In a nutshell, a cookie is a string of information that a site's web server stores on the browser's side and gets it back when the user visits the site.

Misuse of Cookies:
Cookies' developers have been loading cookies with data to make their tasks easier. Sadly loaded cookies with data can be used by hackers to gain information about users and site servers. Third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals' browsing histories; which is a potential privacy concern. Third-party tracking cookies are shared by different vendors for personalizing and customizing web pages.

Issues with Cookies?
The problem is cookies are being misused and mobile vendors are restricting the number of cookies and usage on mobile platforms. Not to mention Apple and Google have their own unique approach, Apple has Universal Device Identifiers (UDID) and Google has an identifier all of its own.

Cookies, Security and Services:
Cookies can be used as a security parameter(s) on web, mobile or any new technologies. They also can help with the personalization and customization of web pages. Vendors can share cookies to service their common clients.

Browser Vendors:
Browser vendors have the biggest role in keeping or eliminating cookies. They can make life easier for security and web architects and developers. Sadly there is no standardization of cookie handling and developers are developing different code for different browsers.

Architect
Our architect addresses a number of topics such as loosely coupled, refactoring, timestamp, Memento Design Pattern Dynamic Business Rules, plus storing Java objects with timestamp for tracking and audit trailing. The Cookie itself is nothing but a string which would be saved in the browser. We are proposing 16 byes string as our cookie.

Cookies Architect
Cookies-Browser Architect Diagram


The Cookies-Browser Architect Diagram presents a Cookies Object Factory (using Java Object) which creates Java Cookie Objects. The diagram shows how the flow of cookies are traveled back and forth between the browser and the Cookies Factory.

The proxy server would generate the business object and that is what we "Cookies Generator Services (Cookies Objects Factory)". This business object is a service. Our Services are also Java objects and uses a number of subservices which will call engines. Each engine performs only one task, and a service object may instantiate a number of engines to perform the required tasks or functionalities.

Once the Business object is instantiated, it would perform a number of tasks including the following:

       Parses in the coming cookie and based on that there could be a number of actions
       Checks the timestamp
       Checks the saved Cookies Java objects which would save any database access over head
       Extracts data from the database
       Create a new Cookie string based on the business
       Save the Cookie back in the browser

Using Session:
We will not cover sessions and our handling of sessions at this point in the time.

Our Cookies Structure and Bit Mapping
To address all these cookies issues and the future of cookies, we have an alternative approach. We believe we need to create an "ID Address" (IDA) similar to an IP Address. IDA will be used to identify the customer and would be stored on the browser/mobile. It will be a string of 16 bytes and consists of the following two sections:

       Public substring (8 bytes - 2 set of 4 bytes string)
       Private substring (8 bytes - 2 set of 4 bytes string)

Cookie Structure Table

One of these Bit Flags can be used in combo to set multiple options. For example, if we use two bits as a combo we have four options for one browser's setting as follows:

       00 = no time expiration date or use the browser expiration setting
       01 = use the included timestamp as the expiration date
       10 = other option such as end of month expiration
       11 = expire on exist

Sharing IDA by Vendors:
4 or more bits (in the second public substring - Browser's On/Off settings) can be used as a password or a Group ID for vendors to share IDA. This means that the browser would include the IDA for this IP vendor plus all the IDA which have the same bit password or Group ID in "HttpServletRequest". As for mobile, it would return a comma separated string with all the IDA with the same Group ID or password.

Visitor's ID Usage:
Not only can the 4 bytes (32 bits) be used as an ID but also as a setting to compile long-term records of an individuals' browsing histories. Such history would be hashed into turning bits On/Off as is currently done with browser settings. As a security measure, these hashed bits would be only known to the group or vendors sharing the common IDA.

We are planning on releasing a template of our java code, displaying our approach to 16 bytes IDA (cookies structure).

Dynamic Business Rules and Timestamp:
The Dynamic Business Rules and timestamp can be formulated to create an endless number of ID and settings which would make it almost impossible for internal and external hackers to figure out.



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