session ID

A session ID is a unique number that a Web site's server assigns a specific user for the duration of that user's visit (session). The session ID can be stored as a cookie, form field, or URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Some Web servers generate session IDs by simply incrementing static numbers. However, most servers use algorithms that involve more complex methods, such as factoring in the date and time of the visit along with other variables defined by the server administrator.

Every time an Internet user visits a specific Web site, a new session ID is assigned. Closing a browser and then reopening and visiting the site again generates a new session ID. However, the same session ID is sometimes maintained as long as the browser is open, even if the user leaves the site in question and returns. In some cases, Web servers terminate a session and assign a new session ID after a few minutes of inactivity.

Session IDs, in their conventional form, do not offer secure Web browsing. Skilled hackers can acquire session IDs (a process called session prediction), and then masquerade as authorized users in a form of attack known as session hijacking.

This was last updated in January 2006

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