Use Alternate Authentication Material: Web Session Cookie

Adversaries can use stolen session cookies to authenticate to web applications and services. This technique bypasses some multi-factor authentication protocols since the session is already authenticated.[1]

Authentication cookies are commonly used in web applications, including cloud-based services, after a user has authenticated to the service so credentials are not passed and re-authentication does not need to occur as frequently. Cookies are often valid for an extended period of time, even if the web application is not actively used. After the cookie is obtained through Steal Web Session Cookie or Web Cookies, the adversary may then import the cookie into a browser they control and is then able to use the site or application as the user for as long as the session cookie is active. Once logged into the site, an adversary can access sensitive information, read email, or perform actions that the victim account has permissions to perform.

There have been examples of malware targeting session cookies to bypass multi-factor authentication systems.[2]

ID: T1550.004
Sub-technique of:  T1550
Platforms: Google Workspace, IaaS, Office 365, SaaS
Defense Bypassed: System Access Controls
Contributors: Jack Burns, HubSpot; Johann Rehberger
Version: 1.3
Created: 30 January 2020
Last Modified: 19 September 2023

Procedure Examples

ID Name Description
C0024 SolarWinds Compromise

During the SolarWinds Compromise, APT29 used stolen cookies to access cloud resources and a forged duo-sid cookie to bypass MFA set on an email account.[3][4]


ID Mitigation Description
M1054 Software Configuration

Configure browsers or tasks to regularly delete persistent cookies.


ID Data Source Data Component Detects
DS0015 Application Log Application Log Content

Monitor for third-party application logging, messaging, and/or other service artifacts that provide context of user authentication to web applications, including cloud-based services. Combine this information with web credentials usage events to identify authentication events that do not fit the organization baseline.

DS0006 Web Credential Web Credential Usage

Monitor for anomalous access of websites and cloud-based applications by the same user in different locations or by different systems that do not match expected configurations.