[openstack-dev] [OSSG][OSSN] Session-fixation vulnerability in Horizon when using the default signed cookie sessions

Nathan Kinder nkinder at redhat.com
Fri Jun 20 15:33:15 UTC 2014

Hash: SHA1

Session-fixation vulnerability in Horizon when using the default
signed cookie sessions
- ---

### Summary ###
The default setting in Horizon is to use signed cookies to store
session state on the client side.  This creates the possibility that if
an attacker is able to capture a user's cookie, they may perform all
actions as that user, even if the user has logged out.

### Affected Services / Software ###
Horizon, Folsom, Grizzly, Havana, Icehouse

### Discussion ###
When configured to use client side sessions, the server isn't aware
of the user's login state.  The OpenStack authorization tokens are
stored in the session ID in the cookie.  If an attacker can steal the
cookie, they can perform all actions as the target user, even after the
user has logged out.

There are several ways attackers can steal the cookie.  One example is
by intercepting it over the wire if Horizon is not configured to use
SSL.  The attacker may also access the cookie from the filesystem if
they have access to the machine.  There are also other ways to steal
cookies that are beyond the scope of this note.

By enabling a server side session tracking solution such as memcache,
the session is terminated when the user logs out.  This prevents an
attacker from using cookies from terminated sessions.

It should be noted that Horizon does request that Keystone invalidate
the token upon user logout, but this has not been implemented for the
Identity API v3.  Token invalidation may also fail if the Keystone
service is unavailable.  Therefore, to ensure that sessions are not
usable after the user logs out, it is recommended to use server side
session tracking.

### Recommended Actions ###
It is recommended that you configure Horizon to use a different session
backend rather than signed cookies.  One possible alternative is to use
memcache sessions.  To check if you are using signed cookies, look for
this line in Horizon's local_settings.py

- --- begin example local_settings.py snippet ---
  SESSION_ENGINE = 'django.contrib.sessions.backends.signed_cookies'
- --- end example local_settings.py snippet ---

If the SESSION_ENGINE is set to value other than
'django.contrib.sessions.backends.signed_cookies' this vulnerability
is not present.  If SESSION_ENGINE is not set in local_settings.py,
check for it in settings.py.

Here are the steps to configure memcache sessions:

  1. Ensure the memcached service is running on your system
  2. Ensure that python-memcached is installed
  3. Configure memcached cache backend in local_settings.py

- --- begin example local_settings.py snippet ---
    'default': {
        'BACKEND': 'django.core.cache.backends.memcached.MemcachedCache',
        'LOCATION': '',
- --- end example local_settings.py snippet ---

     Make sure to use the actual IP and port of the memcached service.

  4. Add a line in local_settings.py to use the cache backend:

- --- begin example local_settings.py snippet ---
  SESSION_ENGINE = 'django.contrib.sessions.backends.cache'
- --- end example local_settings.py snippet ---

  5. Restart Horizon's webserver service (typically 'apache2' or

Furthermore, you should always enable SSL for Horizon to help mitigate
such attack scenarios.

Please note that regardless of which session backend is used, if the
cookie is compromised, an attacker may assume all privileges of the
user for as long as their session is valid.

### Contacts / References ###
This OSSN : https://wiki.openstack.org/wiki/OSSN/OSSN-0017
Original LaunchPad Bug : https://bugs.launchpad.net/horizon/+bug/1327425
OpenStack Security ML : openstack-security at lists.openstack.org
OpenStack Security Group : https://launchpad.net/~openstack-ossg
Further discussion of the issue:
Django docs:

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