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Aura Session

The Aura Session provides session management functionality, including session segments, read-once ("flash") values, CSRF tools, and lazy session starting.

This package is compliant with PSR-0, PSR-1, and PSR-2. If you notice compliance oversights, please send a patch via pull request.

Getting Started


The easiest way to get started is to use the scripts/instance.php script to instantiate a session Manager object.

$session = include "/path/to/Aura.Session/scripts/instance.php";

You can then use the Manager to work with the session values.


A session segment is a reference to an array key in the $_SESSION superglobal. For example, if you ask for a segment named ClassName, the segment will be a reference to $_SESSION['ClassName']. All values in the ClassName segment will be stored in an array under that key.

// get a session segment; starts the session if it is not already,
// and creates the $_SESSION key if it does not exist.
$segment = $session->newSegment('Vendor\Package\ClassName');

// set some values on the segment
$segment->foo = 'bar';
$segment->baz = 'dib';

// the $_SESSION superglobal is now:
// $_SESSION = [
//      'Vendor\Package\ClassName' => [
//          'foo' => 'bar',
//          'baz' => 'dib',
//      ],
// ];

// get the values from the segment
echo $segment->foo; // 'bar'

// because the segment is a reference to $_SESSION, you can modify
// the superglobal directly and the segment values will also change.
$_SESSION['Vendor\Package\ClassName']['zim'] = 'gir'
echo $segment->zim; // 'gir'

The benefit of a session segment is that we can deconflict the keys in the $_SESSION superglobal by using class names (or some other unique name) for the segment names. With segments, different packages can use the $_SESSION superglobal without stepping on each other's toes.

Lazy Session Starting

Merely instantiating the Manager and getting a session segment does not start a session automatically. Instead, the session is started only when you read or write to a session segment. This means we can create segments at will, and no session will start until we read from or write to one them.

If we read from a session segment, it will check to see if a previously available session exists, and reactivate it if it does. Reading from a segment will not start a new session.

If we write to a session segment, it will check to see if a previously available session exists, and reactivate it if it does. If there is no previously available session, it will start a new session, and write to it.

Of course, we can force a session start or reactivation by calling the Manager's start() method, but that defeats the purpose of lazy-loaded sessions.

Session Security

When you are done with a session and want its data to be available later, call the commit() method:


N.b.: The commit() method is the equivalent of session_write_close(). If you do not commit the session, its values will not be available when we continue the session later.

Any time a user has a change in privilege (that is, gaining or losing access rights within a system) be sure to regenerate the session ID:


N.b.: The regenerateId() method also regenerates the CSRF token value.

To clear the in-memory session data, but leave the session active, use the clear() method:


To end a session and remove its data (both committed and in-memory), generally after a user signs out or when authentication timeouts occur, call the destroy() method:


Read-Once ("Flash") Values

Session segment values persist until a session is cleared or destroyed. However, sometimes it is useful to set a value that propagates only until it is used, and then automatically clears itself. These are called "flash" or "read-once" values.

To set a read-once value on a segment, use the setFlash() method.

// get a segment
$segment = $session->newSegment('Vendor\Package\ClassName');

// set a read-once value on the segment
$segment->setFlash('message', 'Hello world!');

Then, in subsequent sessions, we can read the flash value using getFlash():

// get a segment
$segment = $session->newSegment('Vendor\Package\ClassName');

// get the read-once value
$message = $segment->getFlash('message'); // 'Hello world!'

// if we try to read it again, it won't be there
$not_there = $segment->getFlash('message'); // null

Sometimes we need to know if a flash value exists, but don't want to read it yet (thereby removing it from the session). In these cases, we can use the hasFlash() method:

// get a segment
$segment = $session->newSegment('Vendor\Package\ClassName');

// is there a read-once 'message' available?
// this will *not* cause a read-once removal.
if ($segment->hasFlash('message')) {
    echo "Yes, there is a message available.";
} else {
    echo "No message available.";

To clear all flash values on a segment, use the clearFlash() method:

// get a segment
$segment = $session->newSegment('Vendor\Package\ClassName');

// clear all flash values, but leave all other segment values in place

CSRF Token

A "cross-site request forgery" is a security issue where the attacker, via malicious JavaScript or other means, issues a request in-the-blind from a client browser to a server where the user has already authenticated. The request looks valid to the server, but in fact is a forgery, since the user did not actually make the request (the malicious JavaScript did).

To defend against CSRF attacks, server-side logic should:

  1. Place a token value unique to each authenticated user session in each form; and

  2. Check that all incoming POST/PUT/DELETE (i.e., "unsafe") requests contain that value.

N.b.: If our application uses GET requests to modify resources (which incidentally is an improper use of GET), we should also check for CSRF on GET requests from authenticated users.

For this example, the form field name will be '__csrf_value''. In each form we want to protect against CSRF, we use the session CSRF token value for that field:

 * @var Vendor\Package\User $user A user-authentication object.
 * @var Aura\Session\Manager $session A session management object.
<form method="post">

    <?php if ($user->isAuthenticated()) {
        $csrf_value = $session->getCsrfToken()->getValue();
        echo '<input type="hidden" name="__csrf_value" value="'
           . $csrf_value
           . '"></input>';
    } ?>

    <!-- other form fields -->


When processing the request, check to see if the incoming CSRF token is valid for the authenticated user:

 * @var Vendor\Package\User $user A user-authentication object.
 * @var Aura\Session\Manager $session A session management object.

$unsafe = $_SERVER['REQUEST_METHOD'] == 'POST'
       || $_SERVER['REQUEST_METHOD'] == 'PUT'

if ($unsafe && $user->isAuthenticated()) {
    $csrf_value = $_POST['__csrf_value'];
    $csrf_token = $session->getCsrfToken();
    if (! $csrf_token->isValid($csrf_value)) {
        echo "This looks like a cross-site request forgery.";
    } else {
        echo "This looks like a valid request.";
} else {
    echo "CSRF attacks only affect unsafe requests by authenticated users.";
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