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The Web Application Hacker's Handbook: Finding and Exploiting Security Flaws, 2nd Edition by Marcus Pinto, Dafydd Stuttard

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The Need for State

The HTTP protocol is essentially stateless. It is based on a simple request-response model, in which each pair of messages represents an independent transaction. The protocol itself contains no mechanism for linking the series of requests made by a particular user and distinguishing these from all the other requests received by the web server. In the early days of the Web, there was no need for any such mechanism: websites were used to publish static HTML pages for anyone to view. Today, things are very different.

The majority of web “sites” are in fact web applications. They allow you to register and log in. They let you buy and sell goods. They remember your preferences the next time you visit. They deliver rich multimedia experiences with content created dynamically based on what you click and type. To implement any of this functionality, web applications need to use the concept of a session.

The most obvious use of sessions is in applications that support logging in. After entering your username and password, you can use the application as the user whose credentials you have entered, until you log out or the session expires due to inactivity. Without a session, a user would have to reenter his password on every page of the application. Hence, after authenticating the user once, the application creates a session for him and treats all requests belonging to that session as coming from that user.

Applications that do not have a login function also typically ...

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