How Session Hijacking Threatens Businesses

by | May 2, 2024

Session hijacking is a severe risk to both employees and consumers. For businesses, stolen cookies can let hackers access network systems where they can view sensitive data, escalate their access rights, encrypt files, or launch ransomware attacks. Consumers face risks, too, as thieves can use stolen cookies to take over accounts or make unauthorized purchases. With 43% of data breaches linked to application vulnerabilities, sessions can be less secure than many realize.  

What Is Considered a Session?

A session acts as a temporary pass that allows you to interact with a website or online service. It begins when you log in or start using the service and lasts until you log out or after a period of inactivity, which causes it to end automatically. During this time, the website keeps track of your activity through a unique code called a session token, ensuring your interactions are smooth and continuous. That allows the website to remember who you are and what you were doing during your visit without starting over each time you click a new link.

What Is Session Hijacking?

Session hijacking is a cyberattack in which an attacker takes over the user’s online session by stealing or guessing the session token. This tricks the server into thinking the user is the same one who was validated. Once in control, the attacker can access anything on the user’s account since the system doesn’t view them as a threat. This attack exploits vulnerabilities in how a session is managed and can affect any platform that uses session-based authentication.

Who’s Most at Risk of Session Hijacking?

People who operate or access websites and applications without solid security measures are most vulnerable to session hijacking attacks. That includes:

Websites Using Unsecured Connections: Sites that transmit data over HTTP (non-encrypted) instead of HTTPS (encrypted) allow hackers to capture session tokens more easily.

Users on Public or Unsecured Networks: Individuals connecting to public wi-fi, such as at cafes, airports, or hotels, are at higher risk because attackers can intercept network traffic more quickly on these networks.

Sites with Poor Session Management: Websites with weak session management practices, such as long timeout periods, are more vulnerable to session hijacking.

Lack of Security Awareness: People with poor web browsing habits, such as clicking on suspicious links, are more likely to expose their session tokens to attackers.

Organizations Without Regular Security Updates: Businesses that don’t do regular security checks or keep their software patched can have exploitable weaknesses in their session management or network security, making them prime targets for hijacking.

Proactive security measures like HTTPS, secure handling of session tokens, and routine security updates can help reduce the risk.

What Is the Goal of Session Hijacking?

The attackers’ goal in session hijacking is to exploit a valid user session to gain access to business or personal accounts. This enables them to perform potentially harmful actions that can lead to financial gain or other disruptions. For instance, hijackers might access sensitive data, make financial transactions, or damage critical operations. 

For personal accounts, an attacker could use hijacked sessions to purchase, transfer funds, or access private conversations. In both scenarios, the attacker benefits by bypassing traditional security measures and using the stolen session token to carry out undetected actions. This approach allows them to achieve their objectives swiftly and stealthily, often before the user or the organization realizes a breach has occurred.

8 Tips To Defend Your Business Against Session Hijacking

The risk of session hijacking is two-fold for businesses. Not only do they have to protect employees, but they also must guard their customers. Here are some key ways to help defend against it:

1. Use HTTPS

Ensure all web traffic is encrypted by using HTTPS. This essential step helps protect sensitive data, like user login details, from being intercepted.

2. Strengthen Cookie Security

Adjust your website’s cookie settings to enhance security. This includes ensuring cookies are only sent over secure connections and aren’t accessible through browser scripts, which helps prevent unauthorized access.

3. Improve Session Management

Implement short lifespans for user sessions and enforce automatic logouts after periods of inactivity. It’s also essential to ensure that session tokens can’t be reused after a user logs out.

4. Use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Use multiple MFA layers, such as a code sent to a mobile device or a fingerprint scan. That strengthens the login process, making it more difficult for unauthorized users to gain access.

5. Encourage Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)

Promote the use of VPNs to encrypt internet connections, especially when using public wi-fiThis helps protect against session hijacking by securing the data in transit.

6. Do Regular Security Audits

Periodically review and assess your security practices and infrastructure for weaknesses. Regular audits help identify potential security weaknesses before they can be exploited.

7. Schedule Awareness Training

Train your staff on security best practices, such as recognizing phishing attempts and understanding the importance of secure logouts. Cybersecurity awareness is essential to preventing any threat, including session hijacking.

8. Enforce Password Policies

If your business has been hit by a cyberattack, it’s essential that all staff change their passwords. Concerningly, 62% of passwords were reused even after being exposed, leaving the door open for follow-up attacks.

Stay Safer With ITonDemand’s Managed Security Services

Cyber threats like session hijacking are causing many businesses to rethink how they handle their online activity. Taking security too casually, especially when managing many employees, allows mistakes to happen. Fortunately, companies like ITonDemand provide managed security services to defend against those risks. Through in-depth security audits and advanced solutions, ITonDemand is prepared to protect you against any cybersecurity threat.

Is your business ready for threats like session hijacking? Get in touch with us for an IT consultation via our contact form or call us at: +1 (800) 297-8293

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