Working with Session

What is session?

HTTP protocol is stateless protocol. It does not have built-in mechanism to maintain state between each request.

Session is mechanism which store request state in server. State is identified by some random unique id. Each request and response will exchange this identifier to maintain state between requests.

ISessionManager

To use session in Fano Framework, you need to use ISessionManager and also dispatcher instance which support session. Fano Framework provides built-in implementation for this interface.

  • TFileSessionManager, session manager which store session data in file.
  • TCookieSessionManager, session manager which store session data in encrypted cookie.

IReadOnlySessionManager

This interface is provided for getting session instance from a request. This interface if parent of ISessionManager interface. This interface only has one method getSession() which expect IRequest instance and returns ISession instance.

Create session manager instance

Store session data in file

To register TFileSessionManager instance to dependency container, Fano Framework provides TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory and TIniFileSessionManagerFactory classes which will create session manager which store its data as JSON and INI file respectively.

Its constructor accepts three optional parameters:

  • Name of session (default value of FANOSESSID). This will be used as name of cookie.
  • Path of directory where files will be stored (default value of /tmp).
  • Prefix which will be prepended before session id (default value of empty string).

You need to make sure that session directory is writeable by application.

var sessionMgrFactory : IDependencyFactory;
...
sessionMgrFactory := TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory.create(
    'fano_sess`,
    '/home/fanoapp/storages/sessions/'
);

or you can create factory with default value

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory.create();

If it is not set, by default, code above will use GUID as session id (using TGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory class). Read Session ID generator for more information on algorithm used to generate session identifier.

After that register factory to dependency container

container.add('sessionManager', sessionMgrFactory);

Fano Framework can store session data as encrypted cookie instead. This has advantages:

  • Reduce disk usage compared to store session data in file. Session data is stored in user client browser cookies.
  • Simplify session management when using load balancer running multiple application instances.

However, it has drawback too:

To store session data in encrypted cookie value, you need to use TCookieSessionManager. You also need to create instance of IEncrypter and IDecrypter interface which responsible to encrypt and decrypt cookie value. Fano Framework provides built-in encrypter using Blowfish algorithm.

Following code show how to create session manager which store session data in encrypted cookie. You need to setup a random secure secret key to be used to encrypt and decrypt.

container.add(
    'encrypter',
    TBlowfishEncrypterFactory.create()
        .secretKey(
            config.getString('secretKey')
        )
);

container.add(
    'sessionManager',
    TCookieSessionManagerFactory.create(
        TJsonSessionFactory.create(),
        container['encrypter'] as IEncrypter,
        container['encrypter'] as IDecrypter,
        config.getString('session.name')
    )
);

Code above will internally store data as JSON format, to use INI format, just replace TJsonSessionFactory with TIniSessionFactory class.

You can replace TBlowfishEncrypterFactory above with TSha1BlowfishEncrypterFactory or TMd5BlowfishEncrypterFactory which adds encrypted cookie integrity check using HMAC SHA1 or HMAC MD5 respectively. When encrypted cookie is tampered, integrity check will fail and in turn, new session is created.

container.add(
    'encrypter',
    TSha1BlowfishEncrypterFactory.create()
        .secretKey(
            config.getString('secretKey')
        )
);

Fourth parameter of constructor method of TCookieSessionManagerFactory is optional session name parameter with default value of FANOSESSID. So you can omit and use default value as follows.

container.add(
    'sessionManager',
    TCookieSessionManagerFactory.create(
        TJsonSessionFactory.create(),
        container['encrypter'] as IEncrypter,
        container['encrypter'] as IDecrypter
    )
);

See Fano Session Cookie, example web project to demonstrate how to use session that store its data in encrypted cookie.

Store session data in database

To use database for session storage, you need to create a table which contain at least three columns which will store session id, serialized session data and session expiry. Two first columns should be string type column, such as VARCHAR and last column should be DATETIME. For best performance, session id column should be primary key or at least unique index.

You need to make sure that you create proper database credential which has SELECT, INSERT, UPDATE and DELETE privilege on table mentioned above.

TDbSessionManager class provides capability to manage session data in database. To register it to dependency container, Fano Framework provides TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory and TIniDbSessionManagerFactory classes that will create session manager having capability to store its data in database as serialized JSON and INI string respectively.

Its constructor accepts two parameters, instance of IRdbms interface and name of session (optional with default value of FANOSESSID).

It provides several additional methods to let Fano Framework knows about your table schema. Read database documentation for information on working with database in Fano Framework.

var sessionMgrFactory : IDependencyFactory;
...
sessionMgrFactory := TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory.create(
    container['db'] as IRdbms,
    'fano_sess`
).table('fano_sessions')
.sessionIdColumn('id')
.dataColumn('data')
.expiredAtColumn('expired_at');

container.add('sessionManager', sessionMgrFactory);

If table schema is not defined, factory class will assume table name fano_sessions with three columns: id, data and expired_at. So following code is doing same thing as above.

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory.create(
    container['db'] as IRdbms,
    'fano_sess`
);

You can omit last parameter and use default value as follows.

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory.create(
    container['db'] as IRdbms
);

Session ID generator

Fano Framework allows developer to change how session identifiers are generated. The idea is to minimise the probability of generating two session IDs with the same value.

You can change the way session identifiers are generated by calling sessionIdGenerator() of session manager factory and pass factory class of ISessionIdGeneratorFactory interface, as shown in following code,

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory.create(
    'fano_sess`,
    '/home/fanoapp/storages/sessions/'
).sessionIdGenerator(
    TKeyGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory.create('some random string as secret key')
);

All session manager factory classes have sessionIdGenerator() method so you can also set session id generator on, for example, TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory,

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonDbSessionManagerFactory.create(
    container['db'] as IRdbms,
    'fano_sess`
).sessionIdGenerator(
    TKeyGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory.create('some random string as secret key')
).table('fano_sessions')
.sessionIdColumn('sess_id')
.dataColumn('sess_data')
.expiredAtColumn('expired_at');

If you need to implement your own session id generator, you need to implement ISessionIdGenerator interface and also create its factory class which implements ISessionIdGeneratorFactory interface.

Built-in session id generator

  • TGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory is built-in factory class which will create session id generator which use GUID. While GUID is unique, it is predictable so it is vulnerable to session hijack attack.
  • TKeyGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory is built-in factory class which will create session id which use SHA1 hash of a secret key concatenated with GUID as session id.
  • TIpKeyGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory is built-in factory class which will create session id which use SHA1 hash of concatenated string of client IP address + time + secret key + GUID as session id.
  • TKeyRandSessionIdGeneratorFactory is built-in factory class which will create session id generator which use SHA1 hash of a secret key + client IP address + time + random bytes from /dev/urandom.
  • TSha2KeyRandSessionIdGeneratorFactory is similar to TKeyRandSessionIdGeneratorFactory except that it uses SHA2 256-bit hash.

Except TGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory which its constructor does not require parameter, other built-in factory classes expect secret key to be provided when creating factory class. It is strongly advised that you use cryptographically strong random secret key. Fano CLI can help generate random secret key for you.

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory.create(
    'fano_sess`,
    '/home/fanoapp/storages/sessions/'
).sessionIdGenerator(
    TGuidSessionIdGeneratorFactory.create()
);

or with more cryptographically strong session id generator

sessionMgrFactory := TJsonFileSessionManagerFactory.create(
    'fano_sess`,
    '/home/fanoapp/storages/sessions/'
).sessionIdGenerator(
    TSha2KeyRandSessionIdGeneratorFactory.create('your very secret hush hush key')
);

Create dispatcher instance which support session

TSessionDispatcherFactory is factory which can create dispatcher which support session. It expects 6 parameters:

  • Instance of global middleware collection.
  • Instance of router matcher.
  • Request response factory
  • Instance of ISessionManager interface
  • Instance of ICookieFactory interface
  • Integer value of cookie max age in seconds
container.add(
    GuidToString(IDispatcher),
    TSessionDispatcherFactory.create(
        container.get('appMiddlewares') as IMiddlewareLinkList,
        container.get(GuidToString(IRouteMatcher)) as IRouteMatcher,
        TRequestResponseFactory.create(),
        container.get('sessionManager') as ISessionManager,
        (TCookieFactory.create()).domain('your.app.example.com'),
        cookieMaxAge
    )
);

Please read Dispatcher for more information or you may want to get information about how to create Fano web application project with session using Fano CLI.

Injecting session manager instance to controller or middleware

type

    TAuthOnlyMiddleware = class(TInjectableObject, IMiddleware)
    private
        fSesionManager : IReadOnlySessionManager;
        ...
    public
        constructor create(const session : IReadOnlySessionManager);
        ...
    end;
...

implementation

    constructor TAuthOnlyMiddleware.create(const session : IReadOnlySessionManager);
    begin
        inherited create();
        fSession := session;
    end;
    ...
end.

Get session instance

From inside controller or middleware, you can get ISession instance from request using getSession() method of ISessionManager or IReadOnlySessionManager interface.

function TAuthOnlyMiddleware.handleRequest(
        const request : IRequest;
        const response : IResponse;
        const args : IRouteArgsReader;
        const next : IRequestHandler
) : IResponse;
var sess : ISession;
begin
    sess := fSession.getSession(request);
    //do something with session instance
end;

After you hold ISession instance, you can query session state using its method.

You can also use simplified syntax,

sess := fSession[request];

Test if session variable is set

var signedIn : boolean;
...
signedIn := sess.has('userSignedIn');

Read session variable value

var userName : string;
...
userName := sess.getVar('username');

getVar() raise ESessionExpired exception if session is expired.

You can also use simplified syntax

userName := sess['username'];

Write session variable value

sess.setVar('username', 'john@doe.com');

setVar() raise ESessionExpired exception if session is expired.

You can also use simplified syntax

sess['username'] := 'john@doe.com';

Delete session variable

sess.delete('username');

Delete all session variables

sess.clear();

Test if session is expired

To avoid ESessionExpired exception when reading a value, you can test if current session is expired or not.

var userName : string;
...
if (not sess.expired()) then
begin
    userName := sess.getVar('username');
end;

Get expiration datetime

To get time when session is expired

var expiresDate : TDatetime;
...
expiresDate := sess.expiresAt();

Get current session id

To get current session id

var sessionId : string;
...
sessionId := sess.id();

Get session name

To get session name,

var sessionName : string;
...
sessionName := sess.name();

If you create session manager factory as example above, sessionName will contains fano_sess value.

Explore more