Do you log out of sites?


Here’s a mental exercise. When was the last time you logged out of a site? Not closed the tab, or put your laptop to sleep, or waited for a timeout; but pressed a log off button to end a website session?

If your answered recently, do you think any of your colleagues, classmates, friends, or family still do?

I ask, because I’m starting to think it’s unusual. It used to be accepted security wisdom to log out when you were done with a session, but once again I feel like I’m an outlier doing it.

I can see three reasons for this:

  1. Sensitive sites, like online banking and the tax office, will log you out automatically after a period in activity. People have become used to this. I worry, because it trains people to think all sites do this, when they most definitely don’t.

  2. Sites like Facebook are incentivised to keep you logged in to track and monetise your activity. This is why Messenger was such a masterstroke; you have to be logged in all the time to get IM-style messages on their site.

  3. Logging in has become a pain. Split login forms, CAPTCHAs, insecure SMS-based MFA systems that time out delivering codes, and confirmation emails because… wait, you log out sometimes? That’s unusual activity! And the solution? Use your federated login from point 2!

Some of this comes down to security or bad design, either deliberately, or because people don’t prioritise accessibility with alarming regularity.

Still, I thought it was an interesting shift.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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