[http-state] Ticket 6: host-only cookies

Adam Barth <ietf@adambarth.com> Fri, 22 January 2010 08:51 UTC

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From: Adam Barth <ietf@adambarth.com>
Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010 00:50:37 -0800
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Subject: [http-state] Ticket 6: host-only cookies
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I raised this ticket because I wanted to check with the working group
since this is a non-trivial decision:

== Overview ==

If http://example.com/ sends the following header:

Set-Cookie: foo=bar

what Cookie header should the user agent generate for http://qux.example.com/ ?

Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera say that foo=bar is a "host-only"
cookie that is returned to example.com only.  Internet Explorer
doesn't have a concept of a host-only cookie and returns the cookie to
example.com and all of its subdomains, including qux.example.com.

The lack of host-only cookies in IE is a security issue because it
prevents hosts from keeping cookies confidential from their
subdomains.  This behavior surprises enough web developers to be on
Eric's cookie FAQ (see Q3):


== Proposal ==

1) Specify host-only cookies to match Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and
Opera.  This is best for security, and I think there's a good chance
that IE will adopt host-only cookies in future, but I don't have any
citable evidence for this belief.  (The draft currently matches this

== Alternatives ==

2) Specify the IE behavior.  I think this approach is a dead end
because I'd be very surprised if all the non-IE browsers weakened
their security in this regard.

3) Allow both behaviors.  This alternative is the worst for security
because it makes the cookie protocol less predictable.  When all the
other browsers agree on a behavior that's better than the IE behavior,
I think we can require the non-IE behavior.