A computer cookie, commonly known as an HTTP cookie or web cookie, are small text files that store small pieces of information. They’re created by the websites you visit or their affiliates and are stored on your computer.
The data that cookies store is usually some type of tracking information to help the website perform various tasks, such as manage a session ID when you sign in. Cookies are limited to 4kb in size which means they cannot store large amounts of data.
Cookies aren’t something that you can access from the drop-down menu in your browser and view them. Yet they are very important when it comes to browsing the internet and play a great role in making browsing more convenient for you.
Every time you visit a website, it sends a small piece of information to your computer to keep track of your movement on the site, your visits, and activities there. These cookies are then stored in your web browser and are later accessed when you’ll visit the website again.
For example, while selecting a language on a multi-lingual website, the website may store this information on your computer in the form of a cookie.
Next time you visit the website, it’ll automatically load the page in the language you’ve previously selected by reading the information from the cookie so you don’t have to select your preferred language again. It’s very convenient, isn’t it?
There can be thousands of cookies stored in your web browser but since they’re very small in size you shouldn’t worry about them using up too much space. Nevertheless, you may always clear all available cookies directly from the browser’s settings menu.
If you do that then keep in mind that you’ll be logged out of all websites you’ve previously logged in to and hit the “remember me” checkbox.
There are three different types of cookies, each has a specific purpose and usually tracks different activities.
Session cookies, also known as temporary cookies, are created for a single session and vanish once you close the browser. They are first-party cookies and all the administrative authority regarding session cookies lies with the website and the user can’t disable session cookies from his browser.
Typically, session cookies are used by government websites and online banks. They keep track of your browsing session while you actively navigate the site. Once you close the browser, the cookies will automatically expire.
This prevents any malicious users from visiting those websites later using your saved session data.
Cookies that don’t expire after you close the browser or even shut down the computer are referred to as permanent cookies, also known as persistent cookies or tracking cookies.
They have a specific expiration date set by the website and remain valid until then.
Permanent cookies are usually meant to help users by keeping track of their previous logins so that they don’t need to enter usernames and passwords every time they visit a website.
Though the “keep me logged in” or “remember me” feature on websites is handy and makes things easier, it’s not exactly safe in terms of security and can be risky if people with malicious intentions somehow get access to your computer.
For security purposes, some websites offer an option to disable cookies. More often than not though this will restrict your ability to navigate the website since, as mentioned above, cookies are used to keep track of user’s sessions so, for example, you might not be able to access the client area.
To avoid this problem, you may still allow cookies and prevent your details from being misused by clearing your browser’s cache or cookies every now and then.
Third-party cookies are known as marketing or tracking cookies. These are the cookies embedded by third-party websites. For example, advertisements and banners are shown on a website you visit are usually displayed by a third party.
These third parties store cookies on your computer for the purpose of being able to collect as much information about you as possible to be able to display more relevant ads. This may include your search queries, behaviors, interests, and more.
That’s why sometimes when you visit a website you may see a banner or advertisement of a product you have previously looked at elsewhere. By tracking your movements with the help of cookies advertisers can get very specific when it comes to what they show you.
Though their aim is obviously to serve users with a more personalized experience, most people find these tracking cookies as an invasion of their privacy and consider it borderline illegal.
Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are some of the most common websites using third-party cookies.
Cookies themselves are harmless because they aren’t able to hold code. They can neither contain nor execute viruses or any other malicious code. But sometimes cookies can indirectly become the cause of malicious activities involving your data.
The reason behind their misuse is that they are just text files and are extremely vulnerable to cookie attacks. Other applications, spy software and different cookies can harvest personal information like location, passwords, auto-completion details, etc from cookies on your system and use them maliciously.
“Cookie hijacking” is the term mostly used for unauthorized access to cookies.
If the hacker somehow gets their hands on the session or permanent cookies, that’s dangerous because this cookie hijacking creates a possible threat of unauthorized access to websites you’ve previously logged in to. The stolen cookies allow the hacker to get access to the user’s account without entering login details.
Cookie security is a major problem in the internet world. Security holes keep being found in different browsers which inadvertently can leak personal information to malicious users.
This can lead to all sorts of issues including credit card information theft, unauthorized access to personal email or other accounts, and more.
Once your data is stolen, you can be exposed to identity fraud. Your email alone can be tied to many different websites and services which, in turn, contain your personal information as well. The possibilities are endless for how the stolen information and email accounts can be used.
Though you shouldn’t disable cookies for all websites as they may need cookies for proper functioning you may certainly disable third-party cookies in your browser settings. Clear your cache on a regular basis and stay cautious while visiting unknown websites and giving your personal details there.
Despite all the privacy and security concerns, cookies are very useful and handy as they make it possible for the websites to remember us ensuring a comfortable and hassle-free browsing experience.
They certainly can pose security issues and privacy concerns if they’re being used without users’ consent and knowledge. This nuisance can be easily controlled though as modern browsers feature various settings to change the default cookie behavior.
Follow these simple steps below to disable or enable cookies in your browser.
To allow the retrieval of the first-party and third-party cookies, select "Allow local data to be set".
To disallow the storage of all types of cookies, select "Block sites from setting any data". One important bit has to be kept in mind, choosing such a setting may result in the improper functioning of websites that require sign-in information.
To block third parties from creating and collecting cookies make sure to check "Block third-party cookies and site data". This will prevent third-party websites (mostly advertisers) from storing cookies on the user's browser.
Choosing the box containing "Accept cookies from sites" will result in the websites being able to store cookies.
If you would like to prevent cooking from being stored and access by third parties make sure to set "Accept third-party cookies" to "Never" in the drop-down box. This will prevent third parties from storing cookies on the user's browser.
Cookies have been known to track users' data and information. This has led to the creation of many privacy-related concerns, wherein a user wouldn't want his privacy to be so easily accessed. Some cases have also been noticed, wherein tracker cookies, meant to follow a user's movements, have resulted in identity thefts.
Whenever users visit websites they have no idea who they are. By storing cookies on the user's browser these websites are able to customize the user experience for their visitors as well as maintain login sessions and of course display relevant ads.
Cookies may store a wide array of information but as a general rule, they don't contain anything other than some random alphanumeric text characters to be able to identify the user and track their sign-in sessions, movements around the website, location, etc.
Cookies on their own are perfectly safe and do not pose any harm to users or their computers. It is important to keep in mind though that if someone obtains those cookies from your computer then they could potentially gain access to information that should otherwise be secure.
It depends on the timer set for the cookie and could vary from website to website. For eCommerce-based websites, it may be anywhere from hours to years on end, same with the websites that ask users to sign in. It may also get deleted automatically when the browser is closed which is known as the session cookie.