Protecting sensitive content communications from unauthorized access has never been more important. One of the most significant threats to an organization’s data security is session hijacking. Session hijacking is a type of cyberattack where an attacker gains access to an active communication session without a user’s consent or even knowledge. Once a session is hijacked, an attacker can access sensitive information, such as personally identifiable information and protected health information (PII/PHI), login credentials, and financial data. To prevent session hijacking, it’s critical to understand what this type of cyberattack is, how it works, and the steps organizations can take to protect your data.
What Is Session Hijacking?
Session hijacking is a type of cyberattack that takes advantage of an active user session to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. To be clear, “user session” can be defined as a period of time in which an individual accesses an online service such as a website or an application, conducts transactions, and/or interacts with a system by providing input and receiving output. These actions can be tracked by a server and used to personalize the user’s experience. A user session typically ends when the user logs out or when the session times out due to inactivity. There are several types of session hijacking, including:
- TCP session hijacking: This involves intercepting the communication between two computers and taking control of the session.
- HTTP session hijacking: This involves intercepting the communication between a web server and a user’s web browser and taking control of the session.
- DNS session hijacking: This involves intercepting the communication between a user and a DNS server and taking control of the session.
Session hijacking is a serious threat to organizations and their sensitive content communications. It enables the attacker to obtain sensitive information, log in to a user’s account, and access restricted resources. With this access, the attacker can conduct activities such as viewing confidential messages, making changes to information, and even deleting data. This data can then be used for malicious purposes such as identity theft, credit card fraud, or even sabotage. Worse, session hijacking is difficult to detect, so organizations may not be aware of an attack until after it has occurred, further compounding the damage.
How Session Hijacking Works
Session hijacking exploits vulnerabilities in the communication between two computers or between a web server and a user’s web browser. The attacker can use a variety of techniques, including:
- Sniffing: an attacker intercepts the communication between two computers or between a web server and a user’s web browser and captures the data transmitted.
- Spoofing: an attacker impersonates a trusted party to gain access to sensitive information.
- Man-in-the-middle attacks: an attacker intercepts the communication between two computers or between a web server and a user’s web browser and modifies the transmitted data.
Using these techniques, an attacker can gain access to sensitive information and carry out a variety of malicious, fraudulent activities, impacting organizations severely.
Protecting Sensitive Content Communications From Session Hijacking
There are several steps organizations can take to protect their sensitive content communications from session hijacking, including:
Encrypt All Communications
Encrypting communications is one of the most effective ways to protect sensitive content from session hijacking. When organizations encrypt their communications, the transmitted information is converted into a coded form that cannot be read by anyone other than the intended recipient. This makes the stolen information impossible to read and monetize.
Use SSL/TLS Encryption
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are encryption protocols that are widely used in secure file sharing and online communications. Using SSL/TLS encryption, you can ensure that your sensitive content communications are protected from session hijacking and other cyberattacks.
Another critical step in protecting sensitive content communications from session hijacking is to ensure that strong passwords are used. An attacker can easily crack weak passwords, providing access to an organization’s sensitive information. It is essential therefore to use strong, unique passwords that contain a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.
Regular Software Updates
Attackers often exploit software vulnerabilities to perform session hijacking. As a result, it is essential to update all software, especially software involved in communications, regularly. This includes the operating system, browser, email, and other software applications that are used to communicate with others.
Network Security Measures
Ensuring your network is highly defensible is also crucial in protecting sensitive content communications from session hijacking. This includes firewalls, intrusion detection systems, antivirus, advanced threat protection, and other security measures to safeguard your network from malicious activity.
Why Organizations Must Prevent Session Hijacking at All Costs
Session hijacking can lead to significant financial losses for a business. For instance, if an attacker hijacks an active user session, they may gain access to sensitive financial information, such as bank account numbers and login credentials, and use this information to commit theft and fraud. In some cases, the attacker may also be able to make unauthorized purchases using the victim’s credit card number, which can result in significant financial losses for both the business and its customers.
Session hijacking can also have serious legal repercussions for a business. Depending on the jurisdiction and the type of information stolen, companies may be held responsible for data breaches and customer identity theft. This may result in litigation, which could be costly in terms of both time and money. Companies may also be required to notify affected customers of the breach, which could result in class action lawsuits and further financial losses.
Finally, session hijacking can have serious reputational repercussions for a business. If customers discover that their sensitive information has been stolen, they may lose trust in the organization and take their business to a competitor. This can result in a significant loss of revenue and damage the business’s reputation and brand long term.
Session Hijacking in Summary
Session hijacking seriously threatens the data privacy and long-term health of a business. Encrypting your email communications, using strong passwords, regularly updating software, and implementing network security measures are just a few ways to protect your sensitive information. Protecting sensitive content communications from session hijacking is an ongoing process, and staying informed and proactive in the fight against cyberattacks is essential. Following these steps can help protect your sensitive content communications from session hijacking and other types of cyberattacks.
Schedule a tailored demo to understand how the Kiteworks Private Content Network helps organizations mitigate the risk of session hijacking.
Get email updates with our latest blogs news