Re: Explainer: IsLoggedIn (in preparation for TPAC)

Hi Michaela,

I can't speak for John, but I saw this as an optional thing.

If we, as a web developers, don't want to use it, that's fine - but expect
our cookies, and other client side storage to disappear after a short
period of time.

I'm not sure what John's exceptions are, but for websites not using this
feature, I wouldn't be surprised to see cookies disappearing after 24
hours, as the browser tries to remove data that's probably not needed any

I should note that we are already in this kind of situation already
(storage is not guaranteed), so perhaps see it more along the lines of
being able to have our client side data being protected for a longer period
of time.


On Thu, 12 Sep 2019 at 16:48, Michaela Merz <>

> John & Craig -
> Thank you for your thoughts. Please excuse my poor choice of words - I
> understood the principle idea about the browser 'knowing' if a user is
> logged in - though I am not sure if an 'all knowing' browser is desirable.
> Additionally - only allowing methods that would require the browser or
> third parties 'remembering' the user name and/or password is IMHO a bad
> idea. Though the paradigm has been softened lately (e.g. autoplay,
> Google's Media Engagement Index), I truly believe the browser should be
> nothing but an instrument through which a user is able to communicate with
> a web-site. Yes - it should try to identify clearly malicious intentions
> and shield the user from it, but it should not become an instrument that
> interferes with the web-sites codified intentions unless absolutely
> necessary.
> A browser 'controlled' ( for the lack of a better word ) login may very
> well become standard some day. It should never require ANY stored password,
> be it in the browser or federated. Not even thinking about the greed of
> (some) governments, what about using a friends computer to login into an
> account, public terminals and such?
> Thank you again.
> Michaela
> On 9/12/19 8:16 AM, John Wilander wrote:
> Hi Michaela and Craig!
> Thank you both for your comments. Craig is spot on in his reply.
> I’d like to address two additional things based on what you write,
> Michaela:
> 1. “Making logins more secure.” While I’m all for making logins more
> secure, IsLoggedIn isn’t really about that. It’s about the browser
> *knowing* where the user is logged in and using that signal to help them
> stay logged in on those sites while addressing the “logged in by default”
> legacy problem for other sites.
> 2. “Nothing is ever transferred to or stored in the browser.” We might be
> talking about different things here but the browser is involved in all the
> login mechanisms that come to mind, and it does store things.
> Authentication cookies are by far the most common thing to store as part of
> a login. Is there something else you worry about being stored? The
> IsLoggedIn bit itself?
>    Regards, John
> On Sep 12, 2019, at 4:57 AM, Craig Francis <>
> <> wrote:
> Hi Michaela,
> Like you, I'm just a web-developer.
> I don't believe the suggestion from John breaks the classic
> username/password model.
> It just allows the website to say "this user has logged in"... and having
> done that, the browser will keep client side data around a bit longer (e.g.
> cookies, localStorage, IndexedDB, etc).
> This could also be used to remind people of all the websites they are
> currently logged into.
> Now there is a problem - bad websites, who just want their tracking
> cookies to last a bit longer, they could simply say the user has just
> logged in, even if they haven't.
> This is why John made some suggestions on how to avoid that abuse - the
> use of WebAuthn or a Password Manager is a good signal, but the suggestion
> of forcing the user though a "login flow" that the "the browser can check"
> is another approach that might work.
> I'm not sure what that login flow will look like... but how about, a form
> that needs to contain an input type="password", and another field that
> looks like a username field (autocomplete="username/email"), where the
> username is temporarily stored by the browser... if those fields are filled
> in by the user, and submitted to the server by a user action (e.g. they
> clicked a submit button), and within 3 minutes the
> `navigator.setLoggedIn()` method is called with the same username (assuming
> either a POST to a new page, or fetch/XMLHttpRequest), then I'd suggest
> that was a good indication of a login.
> Craig
> On Thu, 12 Sep 2019 at 03:04, Michaela Merz <>
> wrote:
>> Dear WebAppSec:
>> As a (very-) long time web-developer, I'd like to add my two cents. While
>> there is ample reason for creating a better way of securing logins, I don't
>> feel comfortable with leaving all classical username/password methods
>> behind. This explainer proposes the usage of "trustworthy" login methods
>> and suggests WebAuthn, password manager or federated login mechanism or "a
>> flow according to rules that the browser can check". Now - what is wrong
>> with this? Nothing - in principal. The login-process is, however, a very
>> private matter between a user and a web-site. Some users may very well
>> choose not to store their credentials in password managers, use federated
>> logins or allow their FIDO key be used for certain websites. Until now, the
>> browsers can be left out of the login-process and that is what some users
>> want or even need. Therefore - any way of making logins more secure must
>> continue to provide mechanisms that keep the confidentiality (nothing is
>> ever transfered to or stored in the browser). We already provide 2FA using
>> USB / NFC U2F keys on browsers that support it - though most users find
>> that method not too convincing. I must warn against any attempt to force
>> browser logic or any federated mechanism into the most principal
>> communications between a user and the website she trusts.
>> Thank you.
>> Michaela
>> On 9/11/19 5:09 PM, John Wilander wrote:
>> Hi WebAppSec!
>> TPAC is around the corner and one of the agenda items is "Login API”
>> with my name attached to it. Below is an explainer of what we want to
>> achieve. I think Wendy is working on an “Unofficial Drafts” repo for our
>> working group where I can put this for more of issue tracking style
>> feedback. But I wanted to get something out today since there’s not much
>> time left before we meet in Fukuoka.
>> Looking forward to the event and your thoughts on IsLoggedIn.
>>    Regards, John
>> # Explainer: IsLoggedIn ## Motivation We need a way for websites to
>> declare to the browser that the user is logged in or out, and for those
>> declarations to be trustworthy. This is why:
>> ### The Browser Should Know Where You’re Logged In In olden times,
>> Basic/Digest Authentication offered a way for browsers to know where the
>> user was logged in and help them to stay logged in. Those technologies are
>> obsolete for many reasons. Today, WebAuthn
>> <> and password managers (including the
>> use of Credential Management
>> <>) offer a
>> browser-managed way to log in but those features neither cover the expiry
>> of the logged in session nor the act of logging out. We have yet to
>> standardize a way for browsers to manage the logged in status.
>> ### The Current (Bad) Behavior Is “Logged In By Default” For the
>> purposes of client-side storage/state, the behavior of the web platform has
>> been “logged in by default,” meaning as soon as the browser loads a
>> webpage, that page can store data virtually forever on the device, and the
>> browser may have to treat the user as logged in to that website. That is a
>> serious privacy issue. Long term storage should instead be tied to where
>> the user is truly logged in.
>> DOM storage such as IndexedDB doesn’t even have an expiry functionality,
>> making it impossible for websites who use these storage mechanisms to state
>> any guarantees on when traces of a visit to their site will go away.
>> As an additional note, allowing an ever growing, never expiring pile of
>> website data from sites the user may have visited just once is bad for disk
>> space and backup space.
>> ### Clearing Website Data May Log Users Out Browsers may try to fix or
>> mitigate the privacy implications of “logged in by default” by cleaning up
>> storage and state at some cadence. Browsers may also evict cookies because
>> of storage limits or truncate cookie request headers because of header
>> limits. If the browser doesn’t know where the user is logged in, website
>> data cleaning or limits may inadvertently log the user out of some
>> websites, leading to a bad user experience.
>> ## Straw Man Proposal Below we present a straw man proposal for how a
>> web API for logged in status could look and work. This is a starting point
>> for a conversation, not a fully baked proposal.
>> ### API Here’s how the API for setting IsLoggedIn to true could look:
>> navigator.setLoggedIn(
>>     username: non-whitespace string of limited length,
>>     credentialTokenType: “httpStateToken” OR “legacyAuthCookie”,
>>     optionalParams { }
>> ) –> Promise<void>
>> The returned promise would resolve if the status was set and reject if
>> not. The API could potentially take an expiry parameter but here we’re
>> assuming that a designated HTTP State Token
>> <> or
>> “legacy auth cookie” manages the expiry of the login through their own
>> mechanisms.
>> Here’s how the API for setting IsLoggedIn to false could look:
>> navigator.setLoggedOut(optionalUsername) –> Promise<void>
>> The optional username parameter highlights that we might want to support
>> concurrent logins on the same website which would require the site to keep
>> track of who to log out and credential tokens to be scoped to user names.
>> Here’s how the API for checking the IsLoggedIn status could look:
>> navigator.isLoggedIn() –> Promise<bool>
>> This last API could potentially be allowed to be called by third-party
>> iframes that do not currently have access to their cookies and website
>> data. The iframes may want to render differently depending on whether the
>> user is one of their logged in customers or not.
>> ### Defending Against Abuse If websites were allowed to set the
>> IsLoggedIn status whenever they want, it would not constitute a trustworthy
>> signal and would most likely be abused for user tracking. We must therefore
>> make sure that IsLoggedIn can only be set when the browser is convinced
>> that the user meant to log in or the user is already logged in and wants to
>> stay logged in.
>> Another potential for abuse is if websites don’t call the logout API when
>> they should. This could allow them to maintain the privileges tied to
>> logged in status even after the user logged out.
>> There are several ways the browser could make sure the IsLoggedIn status
>> is trustworthy:
>>    - Require websites to use of WebAuthn or a password manager
>>    (including Credential Management) before calling the API.
>>    - Require websites to take the user through a login flow according to
>>    rules that the browser can check. This would be the escape hatch for
>>    websites who can’t or don’t want to use WebAuthn or a password manager but
>>    still want to set the IsLoggedIn bit.
>>    - Show browser UI acquiring user intent when IsLoggedIn is set.
>>    Example: A prompt.
>>    - Continuously show browser UI indicating an active logged in session
>>    on the particular website. Example: Some kind of indicator in the URL bar.
>>    - Delayed browser UI acquiring user intent to stay logged in, shown
>>    some time after the IsLoggedIn status was set. Example: Seven days after
>>    IsLoggedIn was set – “Do you want to stay logged in to news.example?”
>>    - Requiring engagement to maintain logged in status. Example: Require
>>    user interaction as first party website at least every N days to stay
>>    logged in. The browser can hide instead of delete the credential token past
>>    this kind of expiry to allow for quick resurrection of the logged in
>>    session.
>> ### Credential Tokens Ideally, a new IsLoggedIn API like this would only
>> work with modern login credentials. HTTP State Tokens could be such a
>> modern piece. However, to ensure a smooth path for adoption, we probably
>> want to support cookies as a legacy option.
>> Both HTTP State Tokens and cookies would have to be explicitly set up for
>> authentication purposes to work with IsLoggedIn. In the case of both of
>> these token types, we could introduce a __auth- prefix as a signal that
>> both the server and client consider the user to be logged in. Or we could
>> allow HTTP State Token request and response headers to convey login status.
>> Note that sending metadata in *requests* differs from how cookies work.
>> The expiry of the token should be picked up as a logout by IsLoggedIn.
>> Cookies have the capability to span a full registrable domain and thus
>> log the user in to all subdomains at once. HTTP State Tokens have a proper
>> connection to origins but can be declared to span the full registrable
>> domain too. We should probably let the credential token control the scope
>> of the IsLoggedIn status.
>> Explicitly logging out should clear all website data for the website, not
>> just the credential token. The reverse, the user clearing the credential
>> token (individually or as part of a larger clearing of website data),
>> should also log them out for the purposes of IsLoggedIn.
>> ### Federated Logins Some websites allow the user to use an existing
>> account with a federated login provider to bootstrap a new local user
>> account and subsequently log in. The IsLoggedIn API needs to support such
>> logins.
>> First, the federated login provider needs to call the API on its side,
>> possibly after the user has clicked a “Log in with X” button:
>> navigator.initiateLoggedInFederated(destination: secure origin) –>
>> Promise<void>
>> For the promise to resolve, the user needs to already have the IsLoggedIn
>> status set for the federated login provider, i.e. the user needs to be
>> logged in to the provider first.
>> Then the destination website has to call the API on its side:
>> navigator.setLoggedInFederated(
>>     loginProvider: secure origin,
>>     username,
>>     credentialTokenType,
>>     optionalParams { }
>> ) –> Promise<void>
>> The promise would only resolve if the loginProvider had recently called
>> setLoggedInFederated() for this destination website.
>> ## Challenges and Open Questions
>>    - *Grandfathering*. Some websites may not want to prompt an already
>>    logged in user or take them through an additional login flow just to set
>>    the IsLoggedIn status.
>>    - *Expiry limit*. What is a reasonable limit for expiry without
>>    revisit/re-engagement?
>>    - *Single sign-on*. If the browser supports First Party Sets
>>    <>, it may support single
>>    sign-on within the first party set, for instance with an optional parameter includeFirstPartySet:
>>    [secure origin 1, secure origin 2]. The browser would check the
>>    integrity of the first party set claim and potentially ask the user for
>>    their intent to log in to multiple websites at once before setting the
>>    IsLoggedIn status for all of them. The expiry of the login status for the
>>    first party set would likely be controlled by the expiry of the credential
>>    token for the single sign-on origin. However, there is not browser
>>    agreement on how to support First Party Sets in a privacy preserving way
>>    (see Issue 6 <>
>>     and Issue 7 <>).
>>    - *A full-fledged **Login API*. As we’ve discussed IsLoggedIn, we’ve
>>    also talked about what an API that actually logs the user in would look
>>    like, i.e. navigator.logIn(), navigator.logOut(), and
>>    navigator.isLoggedIn(), where either credential tokens are passed to
>>    the browser or the browser is asked to generate them. That may be where the
>>    WG prefers to go so we’re adding it here.
>> --
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Received on Thursday, 12 September 2019 16:07:30 UTC