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Login Cookie

Whenever we sign in to services on the internet, such as bank accounts or web mail, these services remember who we are using cookies. Cookies are small pieces of data that websites ask our web browsers to store and resend on every request to that service. For login cookies, there are two common methods of storing login information in cookies: a signed cookie or a token cookie.

Signed cookies typically store the user’s name, maybe their user ID, when they last logged in, and whatever else the service may find useful. Along with this user-specific information, the cookie also includes a signature that allows the server to verify that the information that the browser sent hasn’t been altered (like replacing the login name of one user with another).

Token cookies use a series of random bytes as the data in the cookie. On the server, the token is used as a key to look up the user who owns that token by querying a database of some kind. Over time, old tokens can be deleted to make room for new tokens.

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