What are cookies in computers?
Also known as browser cookies or tracking cookies, cookies are small,
often encrypted text files, located in browser directories. They are
used by web developers to help users navigate their websites efficiently
and perform certain functions. Due to their core role of
enhancing/enabling usability or site processes, disabling cookies may
prevent users from using certain websites.
Cookies are created when a user’s browser loads a particular website.
The website sends information to the browser which then creates a text
file. Every time the user goes back to the same website, the browser
retrieves and sends this file to the website’s server. Computer Cookies
are created not just by the website the user is browsing but also by
other websites that run ads, widgets, or other elements on the page
being loaded. These cookies regulate how the ads appear or how the
widgets and other elements function on the page.For Managing cookies for
different browsers see here
Standard uses for browser cookies
Website servers set cookies to help authenticate the user if the user
logs in to a secure area of the website. Login information is stored in
a cookie so the user can enter and leave the website without having to
re-enter the same authentication information over and over.More
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. Similarly,
cookies can store ordering information needed to make shopping carts
work instead of forcing the user to remember all the items the user put
in the shopping cart.
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. For Information on session and persistent and
tracking cookies, see here
Cookie security and privacy issues
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
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.See here for some privacy issues
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. If you are a web developer and
suggest you contact marketing specialists who offer search engine
optimisation services. These privacy policies should explain what kind
of information is collected and how the information is used.
Organizations using the cookies initiative started by IAB Europe
include: InviteMedia Networkadvertising.org : andAntor
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.
Other cookie-based threats
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 regualrly use a
anti-virus protection programme.See our anti virus protection section.
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
Rather than the “Opt out” option for website visitors, websites will
need to specifically gain the consent of their visitor and they must
“Opt In” to be able to store cookies on their computer or other
devices.This is expected to be difficult to manage and enforcement will
more than likely be done subtlely and with encouragement rather than
with the threat of fines and penaltys.
What does the new law say?
The new requirement is essentially that cookies can only be placed
on machines where the user or subscriber has given their consent.
6 (1) Subject to paragraph (4), a person shall not store or gain
access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber
or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.
(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal
(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the
purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and
(b) has given his or her consent.
(3) Where an electronic communications network is used by the
same person to store or access information in the terminal equipment
a subscriber or user on more than one occasion, it is sufficient for
the purposes of this regulation that the requirements of paragraph (2)
are met in respect of the initial use.
“(3A) For the purposes of paragraph (2), consent may be signified by a
subscriber who amends or sets controls on the internet browser which
the subscriber uses or by using another application or programme to
(4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the technical storage of, or
access to, information–
(a) for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a
communication over an electronic communications network; or
(b) where such storage or access is strictly necessary for the
provision of an information society service requested by the subscriber
Key tips for safe and responsible cookie-based Web browsing
Due to their flexibility and the fact that many of the largest and
unavoidable. Disabling cookies will lock a user out of many of the most
widely-used sites on the Internet like Youtube, Gmail, Yahoo mail, and
others. Even search settings require cookies for language settings. 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 or use the cookie cleaner included in Abine’s
free Privacy Suite.
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.
Install and keep antispyware applications updated
Many spyware detection, cleanup applications, and spyware removers
include attack site detection. They block your browser from accessing
websites designed to exploit browser vulnerabilities or download
Make sure your browser is updated
If you haven’t already, set your browser to update automatically.
This eliminates security vulnerabilities caused by outdated browsers.
Many cookie-based exploits are based on exploiting older browsers’
Cookies are everywhere and can’t really be avoided if you wish to
enjoy the biggest and best websites out there. With a clear
understanding of how they operate and how they help your browsing
experience, you can take the necessary security measures to ensure that
you browse the Net confidently.