Re: Cookies under Suborigins

Aah ok. Is it not possible to add a simple "add these 3 lines of HTML to
the top?" at the front end layer (whatever google has for nginx) or via a

In any case, I don't want to backseat pontificate about the problems you
are hitting. I agree that we should spec suborigins so that it works better
out of the box with commonly used JS. I am still not convinced this
particular concern--"cannot add shims easily" -- is a common problem but I
might be naive. Lets see what feedback we get on v1.


On 10 May 2017 at 18:28, Aleksandr Dobkin <> wrote:

> We want to roll out suborigins on our static content pages en mass, e.g.
> all the pages on and polyfills would be a lot of
> work. The right way to do it would be to update the templates that are used
> to generate the HTML pages. There several challenges:
>  1) Sometimes it is hard to find the template. If you know you have page
> X, finding template Y for it is nontrivial. We have thousands of individual
> pages/templates.
>  2) Sometimes it is hard to export the template to HTML correctly because
> the config files are in a bad state, not present, bitrotted, etc. The
> templates the template depends on are updated from time to time, and
> exporting can result in unexpected changes in output, so updates frequently
> require manual QA.
> We could insert the polyfills in the HTML files directly, but then the
> polyfill would be be lost the next time the templates are exported, and the
> error (broken analytics) might not be noticed right away. We could build
> some automation to fix this, though.
> It's a lot easier to deploy if it's just a flag in a header.
> I'm okay to punt on this until after v1. For us, the 'unsafe-cookie' flag
> seems sufficient and safe. I think it would be worth it if we can spec
> something so that suborigins works better out of the box with commonly-used
> JS.
> On Wed, May 10, 2017 at 8:38 AM, Devdatta Akhawe <>
> wrote:
>> Hey Alex
>> I agree with Jochen. We should punt on this for v1 in the interest of
>> getting something useful, not perfect, out.
>> I am curious: why doesn't a polyfill that postMessages to an iframe that
>> is on the physical origin work for you? This also allows you to implement
>> policies of arbitrary complexity. In the spirit of extensible web, I think
>> this is far more practical than the spec trying to mandate what's right and
>> what's wrong: we will screw this up. The web is very complex and diverse.
>> cheers
>> Dev
>> On 9 May 2017 at 02:34, Jochen Eisinger <> wrote:
>>> On Tue, May 9, 2017 at 5:39 AM Aleksandr Dobkin <>
>>> wrote:
>>>> Documents are cookie-averse by default in suborigined content
>>>> (document.cookie returns the empty string and setting document.cookie does
>>>> nothing). Much of our content makes use of Google Analytics and the current
>>>> behavior of the analytics script is to silently stop working when cookies
>>>> are not working. For us at Google, to achieve broad adoption of Suborigins
>>>> in legacy content, it's sufficient to set the 'unsafe-cookies' flag. This
>>>> is because, with a few possible exceptions, we do not directly store CSRF
>>>> tokens in cookies and the values of JS-accessible cookies are not very
>>>> sensitive.
>>>> However, for many sites that store CSRF tokens in cookies, the
>>>> 'unsafe-cookie' will indeed be unsafe. I would for us to consider
>>>> alternative designs that would make it easier to adopt Suborigins out of
>>>> the box, while still being safe for everyone.
>>>> Google Analytics (and I suspect similar products) use cookies to store
>>>> IDs for user and session tracking. Analytics, for example, uses the '_ga'
>>>> cookie. Nevertheless, to keep existing script working without modification,
>>>> it is necessary to permit suborigined content to read and write certain
>>>> cookies.
>>>> I suspect the reason for using cookies is mainly historical, and
>>>> sessionStorage could be used in most cases. However, cookies are
>>>> occasionally used is for tracking across subdomains of a TLD and across
>>>> HTTP and HTTPS versions of a site, and here, sessionStorage is not a good
>>>> replacement.
>>>> I briefly looked at the CSRF protection implementation used by Dropbox.
>>>> Dropbox stores the CSRF token in a cookie called '__Host-js_csrf' (which is
>>>> httponly) as well as a cookie called 't' (which is normally available via
>>>> document.cookie). If the suborigned content gets access to the 't' cookie,
>>>> it would be able to attack other, non-suborigined, content on the domain.
>>>> Dropbox will need to change its CSRF mechanism when adapting
>>>> applications for suborigins, though, and I don't think there is a good way
>>>> to avoid doing so. It's not safe to reuse the same token among multiple
>>>> suborigins, so per-suborigin tokens would have to be used. This simplest
>>>> way to do this would probably be to compute tokens as hmac(value=suborigin,
>>>> key=site_wide_csrf) and embedding them in HTML.
>>>> Considering the three requirements above (compat with legacy tracking
>>>> scripts, cross-domain tracking, and compat with CSRF cookies), we can come
>>>> up with different designs and see how well they meet the requirements. I've
>>>> summarized my findings in the following table. The coumn headings list
>>>> requirements and various design ideas are listed in the row headings.
>>>>                          | compat w/ legacy | cross-domain | safe w/
>>>> legacy
>>>>                          | tracking scripts | tracking     | CSRF
>>>> cookies
>>>> =========================+==================+==============+
>>>> ================
>>>> No cookies               | No               | No           | Yes
>>>> (current implementation) |                  |              |
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> No cookies restrictions  | Yes              | Yes          | No
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ---------------
>>>> Prefixed access only     | No               | No           | No
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> Transparent prefixes     | Partial*         | No           | Yes
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> Local cookies            | Partial**        | No           | Yes
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> Everything but __Host-   | Yes              | Yes          | mostly No
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> Cookie whitelist         | Yes***           | Yes***       | Yes
>>>> -------------------------+------------------+--------------+
>>>> ----------------
>>>> Cookie blacklist         | Yes              | Yes          | Yes****
>>>> * Yes, but results in cookie inflation and breaks cross-domain tracking.
>>>> ** Yes, but breaks cross-domain tracking.
>>>> *** Yes, but requires configuration.
>>>> **** Yes,  but requires and configuration and is dangerous.
>>>> Explanation of designs:
>>>> No cookies: Document is cookie-averse. Assigning to document.cookie is
>>>> a no-op. cookie.document is always blank.
>>>> No cookie restrictions: Document gets access to document.cookie as
>>>> though it was not suborigined.
>>>> Prefixed access only: Document can only get and set cookies whose names
>>>> begin with a per-suborigin prefix. Setting document.cookie only works if
>>>> the cookie names begins with __Sub_{name}-. document.cookie only exposes
>>>> cookies that begin with the same prefix.
>>>> Transparent prefixes: Same as above except that prefix are
>>>> automatically added when assigning to document.cookie. Reading from
>>>> document.cookie returns unprefxed cookies.
>>>> Local cookies: document.cookie string is stored in a hidden
>>>> LocalStorage field. So assigning to document.cookie works but these cookies
>>>> are not included in the Cookie header
>>>> Everything but __Host-: Access to cookies is allowed except for __Host-
>>>> prefixed cookies.
>>>> Cookie whitelist: Cookie access is allowed to cookies whose names are
>>>> whitelisted in the Suborigins header. Setting document.cookie is only
>>>> allowed if the cookie name is on the whitelist. document.cookie only
>>>> exposes cookies whose names are on the whitelist.
>>>> Cookie blacklist: Same as above, but with a blacklist.
>>>> What does everyone think of these solutions? Are we open to potentially
>>>> adopting any of them?
>>>> From the list above, 'local cookies' and 'cookie whitelist' designs
>>>> meet most of the requirements. Personally, I think the 'local cookies'
>>>> solution would be a useful to have and could be safely enabled by default.
>>>> The 'cookie whitelist' feature might be useful as well, but is more
>>>> dangerous and also requires a whitelist be specified.
>>> It looks like the "local cookies' could also be implemented as a small
>>> polyfill, right?
>>> "Regular cookies" and "no cookies" are easy to spec, while the new
>>> models you describe would require defining a new thing, so I'd lean towards
>>> punting this to after the v1 has launched, wdyt?
>>>> -Alex

Received on Thursday, 11 May 2017 02:53:15 UTC