min read
November 8, 2019
September 30, 2017

Securing Cookie for 3rd Party Identity Management in Drupal

Securing Cookie for 3rd Party Identity Management in Drupal
Table of contents

But what when we have a scenario where user’s information is being managed by a third party service and no user information is being saved on Drupal? And when the authentication is done via some other third party services? How can we manage cookie in this case to run our site session and also keep it secure?

One is way is to set and maintain cookie on our own. In this case, our user’s will be anonymous to Drupal. So, we keep session running based on cookies! The user information will be stored in cookie itself, which then can be validated when a request is made to Drupal.

We have a php function to set cookie called setCookie() , which we can use to create and destroy cookie. So, the flow will be that a user login request which is made to website is verified via a third party service and then we call setCookie function which sets the cookie containing user information. But, securing the cookie is must, so how do we do that?

For this, let’s refer to Bakery module to see how it does it. It contains functions for encrypting cookie, setting it and validating it.

To achieve this in Drupal 8, we will write a helper class let’s say “UserCookie.php” and place it in ‘{modulename}/src/Helper/’. Our cookie helper class will contain static methods for setting cookie and validating cookie. Static methods so that we will be able to call them from anywhere.

We will have to encrypt cookie before setting it so we will use openssl_encrypt() php function in following manner:

* Encrypts given cookie data.
* @param string $cookieData
*   Serialized Cookie data for encryption.
* @return string
*   Encrypted cookie.
private static function encryptCookie($cookieData) {

 // Create a key using a string data.
 $key = openssl_digest(Settings::get('SOME_COOKIE_KEY'), 'sha256');

 // Create an initialization vector to be used for encryption.
 $iv = openssl_random_pseudo_bytes(16);

 // Encrypt cookie data along with initialization vector so that initialization
 // vector can be used for decryption of this cookie.
 $encryptedCookie = openssl_encrypt($iv . $cookieData, 'aes-256-cbc', $key, OPENSSL_RAW_DATA, $iv);

 // Add a signature to cookie.
 $signature = hash_hmac('sha256', $encryptedCookie, $key);

 // Encode signature and cookie.
 return base64_encode($signature . $encryptedCookie);
  1. String parameter in openssl_digest can be replaced with any string you feel like that can be used as key. You can keep simple keyword too.
  2. Key used should be same while decryption of data.
  3. Same initialization vector will be needed while decrypting the data, so to retrieve it back we append this along with cookie data string.
  4. We also add a signature which is generate used the same key used above. We will verify this key while validating cookie.
  5. Finally, we encode both signature and encrypted cookie data together.

For setting cookie:

* Set cookie using user data.
* @param string $name
*   Name of cookie to store.
* @param mixed $data
*   Data to store in cookie.
public static function setCookie($name, $data) {
$data = (is_array($data)) ? json_encode($data) : $data;
$data = self::encrypt($data);
 setcookie($name, $cookieData,Settings::get('SOME_DEFAULT_COOKIE_EXPIRE_TIME'), '/');

Note: You can keep 'SOME_COOKIE_KEY' and 'SOME_DEFAULT_COOKIE_EXPIRE_TIME' in your settings.php. Settings::get() will fetch that for you.
Tip: You can also append and save expiration time of cookie in encrypted data itself so that you can also verify that at time of decryption. This will stop anyone from extending the session by setting cookie timing manually.

Congrats! We have successfully encrypted the user data and set it into a cookie.

Now let’s see how we can decrypt and validate the same cookie.

To decrypt cookie:

* Decrypts the given cookie data.
* @param string $cookieData
*   Encrypted cookie data.
* @return bool|mixed
*   False if retrieved signature doesn't matches
*   or data.
public static function decryptCookie($cookieData) {

 // Create a key using a string data used while encryption.
 $key = openssl_digest(Settings::get('SOME_COOKIE_KEY'), 'sha256');

 // Reverse base64 encryption of $cookieData.
 $cookieData = base64_decode($cookieData);

 // Extract signature from cookie data.
 $signature = substr($cookieData, 0, 64);

 // Extract data without signature.
 $encryptedData = substr($cookieData, 64);

 // Signature should match for verification of data.
 if ($signature !== hash_hmac('sha256', $encryptedData, $key)) {
   return FALSE;

 // Extract initialization vector from data appended while encryption.
 $iv = substr($string, 64, 16);

 // Extract main encrypted string data which contains profile details.
 $encrypted = substr($string, 80);

 // Decrypt the data using key and
 // initialization vector extracted above.
 return openssl_decrypt($encrypted, 'aes-256-cbc', $key, OPENSSL_RAW_DATA, $iv);
  1. We generate the same key using same string parameter given while encryption.
  2. Then we reverse base64 encoding as we need extract signature to verify it.
  3. We generate same signature again as we have used the same key which was used to creating signature while encryption. If doesn’t signatures doesn’t matches, validation fails!
  4. Else, we extract initialization vector from the encrypted data and use to decrypt the data return to be utilized.

* Validates cookie.
* @param string $cookie
*   Name of cookie.
* @return boolean
*   True or False based on cookie validation.
public static function validateCookie($cookie) {
 if (self::decryptCookie($cookieData)) {
   return TRUE;
 return FALSE;

We can verify cookie on requests made to website to maintain our session. You can implement function for expiring cookie for simulating user logout. We can also use decrypted user data out of cookie for serving user related pages.We are in an era where we see a lots of third party integrations being done in projects. In Drupal based projects, cookie management is done via Drupal itself to maintain session, whether it be a pure Drupal project or decoupled Drupal project,.

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