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RE: Issues with the cookie draft

From: Yaron Goland <yarong@microsoft.com>
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 20:11:30 -0800
Message-Id: <11352BDEEB92CF119F3F00805F14F485026B7218@RED-44-MSG.dns.microsoft.com>
To: 'Dave Kristol' <dmk@bell-labs.com>
Cc: http-wg@cuckoo.hpl.hp.com
X-Mailing-List: <http-wg@cuckoo.hpl.hp.com> archive/latest/2801
RE: $
As the origin server sent out the cookie, why would the origin server
also not know what sort of cookie it is receiving back? While it is true
that the origin server may have sent out cookies with the name
"Version", the origin server can then reliably detect that it is a new
cookie by checking the second value and seeing that it is not a legal
Netscape cookie value. It would seem that the "$" is not necessary.

As I mentioned in my original proposal, the accept-language header would
server the purpose of choosing the language. In the worst case, the
language is just English. The UTF8 Unicode encoding preserves the lower
ASCII range so when dealing with downlevel clients, one sends UTF8
English. I do admit woeful ignorance of the language tag issues. Any
experts in the house?

I am fully aware of the Lab PC environment. That is why IE 4.0 NT will
be shipping with both private and public personal caches. The private
cache will only be available based on log-in. The public cache will be
the default used by anyone who logs into the machine and who doesn't
have a private cache. Thus the distinction your refer to is understood
by the client. As such the client also has the ability to decide when to
store a cookie and when not to. So changing the attribute to Private
would mean "If you are using a user specific cache then you may keep
this cookie across log-ins. If you are using a system wide cache, then
the cookie must be purged on log-out." I believe this is closer to the
desired functionality than the current Discard definition.

Including Version:
I actually meant the comment to apply to Set-Cookie not Cookie. Given
the use of the set-cookie2 header, version, when equal to 1, would
appear unnecessary.

Matching Security the cookie was transmitted with:
I am not going to get religious on the issue, I am just concerned that
the language requires impossible behavior. For example, if the system
has used some out of band means to determine that it has an isolated
connection to the server, for example, they are directly connected by a
wire, it may be perfectly reasonable to send a secure cookie in clear
text. I think the best option is to simply state that the server expects
the cookie to be transmitted in a secure manner and leave it at that.

Dealing with Malformed cookies:
My concern is that handling of end cases caused the state spec to have
to be revved in the first place. I would think, given past experience
with cookies, it would be best to dot every "i" and cross every "t". In
this case I believe it to be appropriate to declare that malformed
cookies must be ignored. This is especially the case given that HTTP
provides no mechanism for the client to return error information to the

4.3.2 Rejecting Cookies (how far into the domain do you go):
I appreciate that it was a long and drawn out debate but that is not a
sufficient rational for preventing perfectly reasonable behavior. The
decision to stop at one domain level is completely arbitrary. It is no
more and no less secure than 2 or infinite domain levels deep. I do not
feel that an arbitrary choice is a good enough reason to include a
requirement in a specification.

Quote David: "You cannot specify explicitly by Domain and Path the
and path you get by default."
If you are explicitly defining Domain and Path, what do you care about
the default? Perhaps an example would help?

Domain and Path Ordering:
How about, cookies are first ordered by domain based on a byte by byte
comparison. Within a domain, cookies are path ordered as specified.

Interface Issues:
I have said my peace on this issue.


> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Dave Kristol [SMTP:dmk@bell-labs.com]
> Sent:	Wednesday, March 19, 1997 8:38 AM
> To:	Yaron Goland
> Cc:	http-wg@cuckoo.hpl.hp.com
> Subject:	Re: Issues with the cookie draft
> Yaron Goland wrote:
> > Why are names beginning w/$ still reserved? As we have now defined
> the
> > position of NAME=VALUE, this restriction is no longer necessary.
> Unfortunately, it is, given the compatibility rules for combining
> Set-Cookie and Set-Cookie2 headers.  When the origin server receives a
> Cookie header, it doesn't know, a priori, whether it's an old or new
> cookie.  Because Netscape's original spec. separated distinct cookies
> by
> ';', the positional placement isn't sufficient to find NAME=VALUE.
> More to
> the point, something like Version=1 could look like a NAME=VALUE.  So
> I
> retained the '$' reservation, to distinguish returned attribute/values
> from
> cookie values.
> > 
> > Comment should be a language tagged Unicode string not a quoted
> string.
> > The actual language used can be implicitly negotiated on by the
> > accept-language headers with the request. This is clearly not a
> robust
> > solution but it is probably appropriate to this situation.
> I'd like to see a more detailed proposal of how the language gets
> chosen,
> what the syntax of the Comment attribute would be, and what the
> implications would be for displaying Comment's contents to a user
> (sect.
> 4.2.2).
> > 
> > Discard is entering dangerous territory. When exactly does a user
> agent
> > terminate? Both MSIE 4.0 and NS 4.0 are moving to desk top models
> where
> > the user agent is operational as long as the computer is on.
> In that model, the user agent terminates when you shut down the
> computer.
> > Furthermore, why would you want to discard a cookie when the user
> agent
> > terminates? It sounds like this is an attempt to solve the problem
> of
> > shared cash behavior. If the cookie is sensitive and if the cache is
> > shared, we don't want the cookie hanging around. I think we should
> > change Discard to Private. Private would indicate that the cookie
> > only be recorded if a private cache is in use.
> What's your definition of a "private cache"?  Does a Wintel PC have a
> private cache?  If so, how about a Wintel PC that sits in a university
> lab,
> where it's shared by lots of students?
> Here's the problem to solve, from the origin server's perspective.
> The
> server sends a cookie to a user agent.  The lifetime is meant to be
> the
> shorter of, say, 3 hours or the end of a session.  If I say
> Max-Age=10800,
> User1 (in a shared PC lab) might finish after one hour and exit the
> browser, thinking this will eliminate any context that had been
> instantiated while s/he used the PC.  User2 comes along, starts up the
> PC,
> goes to the same site, and inadvertantly starts using User1's cookie,
> which
> is "a bad thing".  So the origin server also wants to send Discard, so
> when
> the user agent session ends (browser exits, user reboots Windows,
> whatever), User1's cookie is gone.
> > 
> > Version should be optional, if not included, it should default to
> V1.
> Again, the S-C and S-C2 combining rules necessitate an explicit
> Version, so
> a server can tell whether it's getting V0 or V1 cookies.  Remember,
> the
> origin server only sees a Cookie header (not Cookie2), which is
> ambiguous.
> > 
> > The default for Max-Age has the same "how long is a UA session"
> problem
> > as Discard. IMHO the most robust solution is to have the cookie kept
> > indefinitely if no Max-Age is included.
> That *is* the default, unless there's a Discard.  That's why Discard
> is
> needed -- to override the default where an application needs to do so.
> > 
> > 2. Quotes & Responses:
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "When it sends a
> >      "secure" cookie back to a server, the user agent should use no
> less
> >      than the same level of security as was used when it received
> the
> >      cookie from the server."
> > 
> > Response:
> > What is greater or lesser security? Do we expect clients to record
> what
> > security they were using when they received the cookie and then,
> through
> > some as yet undefined mechanism, decide what "greater" or "lesser"
> > security than the original security mechanism means? This definition
> is
> > too fuzzy to be useful, I believe it should be removed.
> I agree it's fuzzy, but RFC 2068 says nothing about transport
> security, so
> it would be hard to be more specific.  I think we can agree, though,
> that
> encryption is more secure than no encryption.  I don't want a cookie
> that
> was originally encrypted to be returned to the server as cleartext.
> So we
> *have* to say something here, and removing the statement would be
> wrong.  I
> invite alternative words that get the point across.
> > Quote:
> > "If an attribute appears more than once in a cookie, the behavior is
> > undefined."
> > 
> > Response:
> > Undefined things have a nasty habit of defining themselves. I
> propose
> > the sentence read "If an attribute appears more than once in a
> cookie,
> > then the cookie is illegal and MUST be ignored."
> I was trying to be "generous in what you accept".  The HTTP spec., for
> example, does not mandate that a request be ignored if a header is
> malformed.  It's an implementation decision.  Returning to Set-Cookie,
> ignoring a duplicate attribute is a valid behavior.  Ignoring the
> cookie is
> a valid behavior.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "HTTP/1.1 servers must send Expires: old-date (where old-date is a
> date
> > long in the past) on responses containing Set-Cookie2 response
> headers
> > |
> > unless they know for certain (by out of band means) that there are
> no
> > downsteam(sic) HTTP/1.0 proxies.."
> > 
> > Response:
> > I believe this sentence should be changed to read "HTTP/1.1 servers
> > send Expires: old-date (where old-date is a date long in the past)
> on
> > responses containing Set-Cookie2 response headers meant for single
> users
> > unless...". We allow caching of Set-Cookie2 headers intended for
> > multiple people.
> The point of the original paragraph (sect. 4.2.3; could you cite
> sections,
> please?) was, I think, that HTTP1.0 caches are unreliable and can't be
> trusted to honor caching directives correctly.  So stuff must be
> stored in
> them pre-expired.  Even cookies intended for multiple users, because
> there's no way to persuade such older caches that they must revalidate
> documents and cookies.  HTTP/1.1 caches will ignore Expires in favor
> of
> Cache-Control and do the right thing.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "   * The request-host is a FQDN (not IP address) and has the form
> HD,
> >      where D is the value of the Domain attribute, and H is a string
> >      that contains one or more dots."
> [4.3.2 Rejecting Cookies]
> > 
> > Response:
> > The company Blah Inc. has the web site blah.com. Blah sells many
> > products, one of which is called bar. Bar has been released in
> several
> > versions, the newest of which is Foo. Blah wants to be able to
> present
> > information to its customer that it thinks the customer will be
> > interested in and it wants to present this information across all of
> its
> > sites. So it sends a cookie whose domain is .blah.com. If a user is
> > visiting foo.bar.blah.com and receives this cookie they will have to
> > reject it because it violates the above rule. It is totally
> appropriate
> > for Blah Inc. to want to hand out cookies that apply to all the
> sites it
> > owns. However instead of doing it simply by having a single cookie,
> it
> > now has to clutter the user's hard drive with cookies for every
> > *.blah.com site visited, not to mention complicating the server's
> > implementation. I believe this requirement is not reasonable,
> especially
> > for complicated sites.
> Sorry, this piece has a long history of discussion, and I don't think
> we're
> willing to change it, although I do understand your point.  The issue
> was
> how to provide adequate flexibility to applications (and you don't
> think we
> have) while preventing cookie-sharing abuses that might arise from
> sites
> that send cookies with too-liberal Domain=.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "User agents should allow the user to control cookie
> destruction...."
> > 
> > Response:
> > If a UA maker wants to never allow a customer access to cookie
> control
> > mechanisms, that is the UA maker's business, not the standards. We
> can
> > not threaten companies by saying "Well if you don't create your
> > interface the way we say then you aren't compliant" and expect to
> remain
> > credible as a standards organization. This is not a wire protocol
> > related issue. It is a feature issue and a matter of competitive
> > advantage for UAs.
> This item, of course, is part of the broader discussion about what RFC
> 2109
> can and cannot say about UA interfaces.  The members of the sub-group
> were
> quite firm in their belief that users should have control of cookies.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "   * The value for the $Domain attribute must be the value from the
> > |
> >      Domain attribute, if any, of the corresponding Set-Cookie2
> response
> > |
> >      header.  Otherwise the attribute should be omitted from the
> Cookie2
> > |
> >      request header.
> > |
> > 
> >    * The value for the $Path attribute must be the value from the
> Path
> > |
> >      attribute, if any, of the corresponding Set-Cookie2 response
> > |
> >      header.  Otherwise the attribute should be omitted from the
> Cookie2
> > |
> >      request header"
> > 
> > Response:
> > All cookies have Domain and Path values. When not explicitly defined
> > they are implicitly defined. Thus a user agent will record these
> values,
> > explicit or not. The above requirements now dictate that the UA has
> to
> > record extra information, an indication if the Domain and Path are
> > implicit or explicit. I can find no good reason to place this
> > requirement on the UA. Instead we should simply require that the
> Domain
> > and Path, explicit or not, should always be returned with the
> cookie.
> Yes, there we are requiring extra information.
> Here's why.  You cannot specify explicitly by Domain and Path the
> domain
> and path you get by default.  For example, suppose x.y.com sends a
> cookie.
> If it leaves out Domain=, the default domain is x.y.com.  The cookie
> will
> be returned *only* to that site.  However, if you say Domain=.y.com,
> the
> cookie gets sent to any site *.y.com, not just x.y.com.  Or you can
> say
> .x.y.com, which domain-matches *.x.y.com.
> There's a similar behavior for Path regarding '/'.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "Domain Selection
> >      The origin server's fully-qualified host name must domain-match
> the
> >      Domain attribute of the cookie.  The origin server's port
> number
> > |
> >      must equal the port number of the server that sent the cookie."
> > 
> > Response:
> > Why do we have the port number requirement? If Blah Inc. has an HTTP
> > server on ports 80 and 81, why would we want to prevent sharing
> between
> > two ports on the same system?
> Well, for one thing the two servers may be administered separately for
> different purposes, and letting them share cookies seems like a bad
> idea.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "If multiple cookies satisfy the criteria above, they are ordered in
> the
> > |
> > Cookie2 header such that those with more specific Path attributes
> > precede those with less specific.  Ordering with respect to other
> > attributes (e.g., Domain) is unspecified."
> > 
> > Response:
> > If we leave domain ordering undefined doesn't that sort of destroy
> the
> > utility of requiring path ordering?
> Okay, I was lazy, following Lou's example in the original spec.  I
> didn't
> want to have to specify a multi-dimensional sorting algorithm.  Got
> any
> ideas?  (I'm hoping that multiple cookies to the same site are rare,
> so it
> isn't that big a problem, but I do feel a little guilty it is so
> poorly
> specified.)
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "User agents may offer configurable options that allow the user
> agent,
> > or
> > any autonomous programs that the user agent executes, to ignore the
> > above rule, so long as these override options default to ``off.''"
> > 
> > Response:
> > Again, I do not feel it is appropriate for this specification to
> dictate
> > to UA makers how to build the parts of their product that do not go
> over
> > the wire. If a UA maker wants this to default to "ON", that is their
> > business. If the UA maker wants to default to "ON" and not allow the
> > user to change the value, that is also their business. The mission,
> I
> > hope, is interoperability, not second guessing UA makers.
> Same user agent interface discussion as before.  And same user control
> discussion.
> > 
> > Quote:
> > "This state
> > management specification therefore requires that a user agent give
> the
> > user control over such a possible intrusion, although the interface
> > through which the user is given this control is left unspecified.
> > However, the control mechanisms provided shall at least allow the
> user
> > 
> >    * to completely disable the sending and saving of cookies.
> > 
> >    * to determine whether a stateful session is in progress.
> > 
> >    * to control the saving of a cookie on the basis of the cookie's
> >      Domain attribute."
> > 
> > Response:
> > Wire protocols have a massive effect on the range of functions a
> client
> > can implement. In effect, they restrict products. Software companies
> > have decided that interoperability is such an important product
> feature
> > that it is worth having their functionality restrained. However
> there is
> > another reason behind the software maker's behavior, they know that
> the
> > real battle is UI not features. Features tend to be a check-list, so
> > long as everyone has the same check marks, the competitive field
> remains
> > flat. The area of competition becomes primarily one of interface.
> When
> > standards step beyond the wire, beyond even functionality, and go
> into
> > the area that is the heart of computer software, they render
> themselves
> > irrelevant. Companies are not going to give up their competitive
> > advantage in order to be compliant with a standard. Worse yet, due
> to
> > press pressures, companies will be forced to look like they are
> > compliant, even when they are not. This reduces the ability of the
> > to be an effective standards setting organization. Once companies
> are
> > forced to selectively ignore standards the goal of interoperability
> > becomes impossible.
> Ditto.
> Dave Kristol
Received on Thursday, 20 March 1997 20:12:42 UTC

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