What are cookies?
Cookies (often known as Internet cookies) are text files with small pieces of data — such as a username and password — that are used to identify your computer while you are using a network. Specific cookies are used to identify specific users and improve their web browsing experience. The data stored in a cookie is created by the server upon your connection. This data is labeled with an identifier unique to you and your computer. When the cookie is exchanged between your computer and the network server, the server reads the identifier and knows what information to give you specifically.
Due to international laws, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and some state laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), many websites must now ask for permission to use certain cookies with your browser and provide you with information about how their cookies will be used if you accept. More information about cookies can be found at:
What are cookies used for?
Websites use HTTP cookies to improve your web experience. Without cookies, you’ll need to log in every time you leave a site or recreate your shopping cart if you accidentally close the page. The creation of cookies is an important part of the modern Internet experience.
To be brief, cookies are intended to be used to:
- Session management: For example, cookies allow websites to recognize users and remember their individual login details and preferences, such as sports news versus politics.
- Personalization: Personalized advertising is the primary way cookies are used to personalize your sessions. You may view certain elements or parts of a site and cookies use this data to help you create targeted advertisements that you may like. They are also used for language preferences.
While this is mostly for your benefit, web developers also get a lot out of this setup. Cookies are stored on your device locally to free up storage space on the website’s servers. In turn, websites can customize content while saving money on server maintenance and storage costs.
What are the different types of HTTP cookies?
With a few variations (which we’ll discuss later), cookies in the cyber world basically come in two varieties: session cookies and persistent cookies.
*Session cookies are only used when navigating a website. They are stored in random access memory and are never written to the hard disk. When the session ends, session cookies are automatically deleted. They also help the back button work in your browser.
*Persistent cookies, on the other hand, remain on the computer indefinitely, although many include an expiration date and are automatically removed when that date is reached. Persistent cookies are used for two main purposes:
*Authentication. These cookies track whether a user is logged in and under what name. They also optimize login information so users don’t have to remember passwords for sites.
From now on, internet cookies can be divided into two further categories: first-party and third-party. Depending on where they come from, some cookies can potentially pose a greater threat than others.
First-party cookies are created directly by the website you are using. They’re usually safer as long as you’re browsing reputable websites or ones that haven’t been compromised by a recent data breach or cyberattack.
Third party cookies
Third-party cookies are more complicated. They are generated by websites that are different from the pages users are currently browsing, usually because they are linked to ads on that page. Third-party cookies allow advertisers or analytics companies to track an individual’s web browsing history across all sites that contain their ads. However, as previously mentioned, due to new data protection laws, allowing third-party cookies to access your browser is no longer mandatory in many countries and states. Nowadays, most third-party cookies have no direct impact on your browsing experience, as many browsers have already started phasing them out (Google announced the end of third-party cookies in Chrome by 2024). Many websites still work well and remember your preferences without using third-party cookies.
Zombie cookies are a form of persistent third-party cookies that are permanently installed on users’ computers. They have the unique ability to reappear after being “deleted” from your computer. They are sometimes also called “flash cookies” or “super cookies” and are extremely difficult to remove. Like other third-party cookies, zombie cookies may be used by web analytics companies to track the browsing history of unique individuals. Websites can also use zombies to ban certain users. However, in some cases these types of cookies can be produced by hackers and used to infect your system with viruses and malware.
Basic cookies are now synonymous with the pop-up asking you about your cookie preferences when you first visit a website. Essential cookies are first-party session cookies that are necessary to run the website or the services you have requested online (such as remembering your login credentials).
Enable and remove cookies
Some cookies may be an optional part of your internet experience, for example you can limit which cookies remain on your computer or mobile device. Today, this is usually done when you visit a website and are given the option of enabling or not enabling third-party (or other) cookies.
If you enable and allow cookies, it can streamline your web browsing experience.
Find the cookies section – usually under Settings Privacy.
Click on the boxes to allow cookies. Sometimes the option says allow “local” data.
If you do not want cookies, you can simply uncheck these boxes.
Removing cookies can help you reduce the risks of privacy breaches. It can also reset your browser tracking and customization. Removing normal cookies is easy, but may make navigation on some websites more difficult. Without cookies, internet users may have to re-enter their details for each visit. Different browsers store cookies in different places, but generally you can:
Find the “Settings”, “Privacy” section – sometimes listed under “Tools”, “Internet Options” or “Advanced”.
Follow the prompts for available options to manage or remove cookies.
However, to eliminate the constant infestation of tracking cookies and more malicious types created by hackers, you’ll want to enlist the help of some Premium Protection. In the future, you should also anonymize your network usage by using a virtual private network (VPN). These services tunnel your web connection to a remote server that impersonates you. The cookies will then be labeled for that remote server in another country instead of your local computer.