A commonly repeated advice over the web is not to store usernames in cookies.

However, I don't really understand the problem. What I'm doing in my web application is: I generate a 16-byte (converted to 32-bit hex) random session ID generated from a CSPRNG, and store the username and this session ID in cookies.

Needless to say is the fact that the existence of the session ID and its correlation with the user is checked from a database before performing any actions in the web application. I'm doing this to speed up the database access a bit, and to protect against the problem of collisions, where an user may find themselves authorized as a different user due to an accidental collision.

What is the weakness in this scheme?

  • 4
    Related/possible duplicate. May 20, 2016 at 18:30
  • Erm... you've answered your question yourself ! (a) Use your database properly, don't treat it like a dumb black box (b) "accidental collisions" ... fix your code and business logic, not only that but that sounds like one heck of a security risk you're brewing right there !!!! May 20, 2016 at 21:50
  • @LittleCode In my case I'm using bin2hex(random_bytes(16)), but there may be a small chance of collisions (entropy in the pool running low, mere chance, among others) and that's not something I can fix.
    – user22260
    May 21, 2016 at 4:28
  • I'm speechless. Good luck is all I'm prepared to say. May 21, 2016 at 7:30
  • random_bytes is cryptographically secure. As you are getting 128 bits, the odds of a collision are effectively zero. May 21, 2016 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


People who say that are confused. You need to not blindly trust data stored in cookies for important operations, but storing non-confidential (and the username is not confidential) information in a cookie for convenience is fine. Just don't use it for security decisions without validating it first.

So, storing the username in a cookie to say "Welcome Alice, please log in." is fine. But trusting that the user is Alice just because a cookie says that is not. In that case, it would be too easy for Mallory to set their cookie to "Alice" and get access to Alice's account.