What is Cookie?
And I am not talking about the chocolate chip kind…
We’ve all heard this term before. But what is cookie when it comes to computing?
A Cookie, aka browser cookie and HTTP cookie, is simply a piece of text sent to your browser by the websites you visit. When you visit a website for the very first time, the server of the website generates a string of text and sends it to your browser. When you visit that website for the second time, your browser sends this piece of text back to the server of the website. This way, the website recognizes your computer and it makes it for a better web surfing experience. (Continue Reading Below the Video)
A cookie technology was first implemented by Netscape in 1994 in an online shopping cart application. It allowed the shopping cart to remember its users’ settings, preferences, log in information, etc.
At first, the web users weren’t aware of cookies, because they were set to be accepted automatically by Internet Explorer. A lot of advertising companies started using cookies to track users’ online activities. Cookies received a lot of media attention in the late 90s for their tracking capabilities and privacy concerns.
These days, pretty much every single website is using cookies.
There are two types of cookies:
Temporary, aka “session” cookie, expires as soon as the user leaves a website or closes the web browser.
Permanent, aka “persistent” cookie doesn’t expire and stays on the user’s hard drive for an extended period of time. This type of a cookie is very often used for tracking purposes.
What Type of Information is Tracked by Cookies?
Cookies track your online activities. For example, Google will track all of your searches, all websites you’ve visited, advertisements you clicked on, etc. This data then stored, analyzed and used for various purposes. Never assume that you have any type of privacy or anonymity online. Your every move is tracked and everything can be traced back to you.
Cookies are also used for authentication purposes. Let’s just say you log into your Facebook account. When you enter your user name and your password, a cookie will verify this information. This is how you are able to navigate from one page to another in your account without re-entering your authentication information.
Cookies are also used to remember your personalization settings on certain websites. For example, if you go to your favorite newspaper’s site and set to view just your local news, a cookie will remember this information the next time you visit that site.
Cookies are generally harmless; they are just strings of unexecutable text. Cookies do not carry malware; however, this is not to say that malware can’t generate its own cookie, store it on your computer’s hard drive in order to track your activities and collect sensitive information and then use it for Identity Theft.
Cookies are only as safe as the websites that are issuing them and the user’s browser. Cookies can be easily intercepted and exploited by hackers.
How do YOU handle cookies? Do you allow them automatically or do you reject them? Or perhaps you just reject only third-party cookies?