Session Timeout for PayPal OpenID

While setting up PayPal.com as an OpenID provider to enable third party authentication, two issues came up for session management:

  1. The session timeout for PayPal.com is set for a short duration. As a payment provider, it makes complete sense; However, as an Identity provider it didn’t result in an ideal experience It required user authentication for every RP access and hence added to user friction. RP’s preference was for a more seamless user experience and reduce (if not eliminate) the login challenge.
  2. The concept of login to a site using another site’s credentials is still new. Users were not sure if they were login to a RP or PayPal or both; Users didn’t always realize that by using PayPal.com to login to a RP, they were leaving an active session at PayPal.

We wanted to make sure tha the security of the user’s PayPal.com account wasn’t compromised; while providing the best experience that we can offer. We took a couple of measures:

  • Decouple the OP session from PayPal.com – If you use PayPal as an OP, it will not result in an active session at PayPal.com.
  • Allow the OP session to be longer lived – The maximum duration for OP session is 8 hours. Depending on the RP’s preference, user may not be challenged again for 8 hours.
  • Allow RPs to request session duration via max_auth_age – Depending on the sensivity of the transactions, RPs can request their session duration preference. It can be done either at on-boarding time or during the OpenID Authn request.

There are a still a few more tweaks that we are planning to make in the near future, but we believe the current solution will allow RPs to have a better control of the user experience.

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