‘Cookies’ are small text files that a website may put on your computer or mobile device when you first visit a site or page. The cookie will help the website, or another website, to recognize your device the next time you visit. Web beacons or other similar files can also do the same thing. We use the term “cookies” in this policy to refer to all files that collect information in this way. There are many functions cookies serve. For example, they can help us to remember your username and preferences, analyze how well our website is performing, or even allow us to recommend content we believe will be most relevant to you. Certain cookies contain personal information – for example, if you click to “remember me” when logging in, a cookie will store your username. Most cookies won’t collect information that identifies you, and will instead collect more general information such as how users arrive at and use our websites, or a user’s general location.
Session Cookies are also used by the server to store information about user page activities so users can easily pick up where they left off on the server’s pages. By default, web pages really don’t have any ‘memory’. Cookies tell the server what pages to show the user so the user doesn’t have to remember or start navigating the site all over again. Cookies act as a sort of “bookmark” within the site.
Persistent or tracking Cookies are also employed to store user preferences. Many websites allow the user to customize how information is presented through site layouts or themes. These changes make the site easier to navigate and/or lets user leave a part of the user’s “personality” at the site.
Cookies are NOT viruses. Cookies use a plain text format. They are not compiled pieces of code so they cannot be executed nor are they self-executing. Accordingly, they cannot make copies of themselves and spread to other networks to execute and replicate again. Since they cannot perform these functions, they fall outside the standard virus definition. Cookies CAN be used for malicious purposes though. Since they store information about a user’s browsing preferences and history, both on a specific site and browsing among several sites, cookies can be used to act as a form of spyware. Many anti-spyware products are well aware of this problem and routinely flag cookies as candidates for deletion after standard virus and/or spyware scans.
The way responsible and ethical web developers deal with privacy issues caused by cookie tracking is by including clear descriptions of how cookies are deployed on their site. Most browsers have built in privacy settings that provide differing levels of cookie acceptance, expiration time, and disposal after a user has visited a particular site. Backing up your computer can give you the peace of mind that your files are safe.
Since identity protection is highly valued and is every internet users right , it pays to be aware of what threat cookies can pose. As cookies are transmitted back and forth between a browser and website, if an attacker or unauthorized person gets in between the data transmission, the sensitive cookie information can be intercepted. Although relatively rare, this can happen if the browser is connecting to the server using an unencrypted network like an non-secured WiFi channel. Internet security is only attainable if you regularly use a anti-virus protection software.
Other cookie-based attacks involve exploiting faulty cookie-setting systems on servers. If a website doesn’t require browsers to use encrypted channels only, attackers can use this vulnerability to trick browsers into sending sensitive information over insecure channels. The attackers then siphon off the sensitive data for unauthorized access purposes.
Here are some tips you can use to ensure worry-free cookie-based browsing: Customize your browser’s cookie settings to reflect your comfort level with cookie security. If you are very comfortable with cookies and you are the only person using your computer, you may want to set long expiration time frames for storing your personal access information and browsing history.
If you share access on your computer, you may want to set your browser to clear private browsing data every time you close your browser. While not as secure as rejecting cookies outright, this option lets you access cookie-based websites while deleting any sensitive information after your browsing session.