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Logging Cookies with the Apache httpd web server

An interesting question that came up yesterday - can we extend Apache httpd's logging to include details of cookies sent to the server? The answer is yes, and overnight I have done a little testing.

Let's say I want a log file with records like this:

203.126.136.220 [20/Aug/2008:07:39:25 +0100] "wxt=551e80d6ca00833407af3f85ac8919a5" 200 "GET /forum/The-Tcl-programming-language/File-Searching.html HTTP/1.1"

66.249.65.108 [20/Aug/2008:07:40:44 +0100] "-" 200 "GET /forum/The-MySQL-Relational-Database/Copying-a-table-structure.html HTTP/1.1"

220.227.116.220 [20/Aug/2008:07:40:37 +0100] "wxt=d173ff275e98ed6535eb14ca992976e0; whcmy=whc48abbbef58a62" 200 "GET /resources/P307.html HTTP/1.0"

All I had to do was to add the following two lines to my httpd.conf file:

LogFormat "%h %t \"%{Cookie}i\" %>s \"%r\"" cookie
CustomLog "/home/wellho/logs/cookie_log" cookie


The first line defines a new log file format including the cookie header, and the second describes where that log file is to be generated. And, yes, you could do something similar for acceptable compression types, preferred languages, and much more!

And then stop and restart the server to have the new configuration read and effected (./bin/apachectl stop; ./bin/apachectl start)

Some extra notes:

a) Bare in mind that a nonstandard log file format won't be automatically accepted as an input data source by analog, awstats and all the other web file log analysis packages out there!

b) remember to use crontab or something like it to cycle the log files.

c) There could be privacy issues ... this is JUST an experiment!

Why would I want to note cookies?
• To help tell automata apart from real visitors
• To help establish who's who when I have multiple visitors from the same site
• To help over the long term to trace back multiple accesses from different IP addresses to the same visitor - as will happen from the laptop I'm posting from today for example - which last week was in Melksham, over the weekend was in St Briavels and is now posting from Milton keynes.
(written 2008-08-20, updated 2008-08-21)

 
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articles
A606 - Web Application Deployment - Apache httpd - log files and log tools
  [4491] Web Server Admin - some of those things that happen, and solutions - (2015-05-10)
  [4404] Which (virtual) host was visited? Tuning Apache log files, and Python analysis - (2015-01-23)
  [4307] Identifying and clearing denial of service attacks on your Apache server - (2014-09-27)
  [3984] 20 minutes in to our 15 minutes of fame - (2013-01-20)
  [3974] TV show appearance - how does it effect your web site? - (2013-01-13)
  [3670] Reading Google Analytics results, based on the relative populations of countries - (2012-03-24)
  [3554] Learning more about our web site - and learning how to learn about yours - (2011-12-17)
  [3491] Who is knocking at your web site door? Are you well set up to deal with allcomers? - (2011-10-21)
  [3447] Needle in a haystack - finding the web server overload - (2011-09-18)
  [3443] Getting more log information from the Apache http web server - (2011-09-16)
  [3087] Making the most of critical emails - reading behind the scene - (2010-12-16)
  [3027] Server logs - drawing a graph of gathered data - (2010-11-03)
  [3019] Apache httpd Server Status - monitoring your server - (2010-10-28)
  [3015] Logging the performance of the Apache httpd web server - (2010-10-25)
  [1796] libwww-perl and Indy Library in your server logs? - (2008-09-13)
  [1780] Server overloading - turns out to be feof in PHP - (2008-09-01)
  [1656] Be careful of misreading server statistics - (2008-05-28)
  [1598] Every link has two ends - fixing 404s at the recipient - (2008-04-02)
  [1503] Web page (http) error status 405 - (2008-01-12)
  [1237] What proportion of our web traffic is robots? - (2007-06-19)
  [376] What brings people to my web site? - (2005-07-13)


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