What are Cookies in a Website?

Cookies are of great importance to websites. They help in storing essential information and giving users a personalized and better browsing experience. 

Privacy is a huge concern these days, especially given the increasing number of scams and frauds happening online. One might be concerned about some hacker getting through to their information stored in the form of cookies. You must have thought of questions like who has the access to data collected via cookies? What about user privacy? This article will answer these questions for you!

While most cookies are safe, some can be used to track you or spy on you. However, basic knowledge about cookies is all you need to protect yourself from any scams happening to you.

In this article, we will look at what cookies are, what they are used for, different types of cookies, how they can be dangerous and how to keep yourself on the safer side. Keep reading till the end to know about the courses that Nautone provides on ‘Cybersecurity’.

What are cookies?

Cookies are codes with data, like your username or password, which are generated by a web server when a user visits a website and are stored on the user’s web browser.  The primary purpose of the cookies are for identifying the users and improving their browsing experience. 

All the data like one’s login information, preferences, the things once could have added to their shopping cart, etc are stored in the form of cookies so that you do not have to enter the information again. 

When you visit a web page cookies are generated and labelled with a unique ID.

What are cookies used for?

Cookies are mainly used to enhance your web experience. If it weren’t for cookies,  one would have to re-enter all the information when they revisited an exited or refreshed page. 

The three main intentions behind using cookies are: 

  1. Session Management: Here, the cookies are stored for purposes like remembering login information and preferences of users or to keep track of which user is assigned which shopping cart and stuff like that. 
  1. Personalization: Cookies can be used to show relevant content/ads to the users. Some websites ask for preference and accordingly show ads that might interest the users, while some other sites keep a track of what content the user is engaging more with and show ads related to that.
  1. Tracking: Cookies are used to track users’ browsing habits and to know what sites a user is visiting. When a user requests a page on the site, the server creates a unique string of numbers and letters. 

The server sends the cookie to the browser along with the requested page and from this point onward. Whenever the user requests any page on the site, the information gets added to the cookies. This data can be used by corporate companies for targeted advertising.

What are the different types of cookies?

First-Party Cookies

The website sets cookies to calculate views, session duration and the number of users. This data can be shared by the website publisher with the advertisers or ad agencies for targeting ads.

Third-Party Cookies

These are the cookies that do not belong to the website that the user visits. Instead, they are from third-party sites that the website publishers might have added or advertised on their webpage. 

Whenever a user clicks on ads or URLs from a website, those cookies are registered and can be tracked.

Session Cookies

Session cookies help users in navigating a website and are deleted as soon as the session ends. These cookies are stored in Random Access Memory (RAM) and are never written on the Hard drive.

Persistent Cookies

As the name suggests, these cookies can persist for a long time. These cookies are supposed to have a deadline and get deleted automatically after the deadline ends.

The deadline can be anywhere between a second to 10 years. These are used to track users’ interactions with the website.

Zombie Cookies

These cookies are installed on the users’ devices without their knowledge. These cookies are difficult to remove because even after they have been deleted, they recreate themselves.

Can cookies be dangerous?

Cookies themselves are not dangerous because they are just stored information. The danger is when some cyber attacker hijacks the cookies. If this happens, the attacker can track down the browsing history and misuse it.

Different types of cookies possess different levels of danger:

First-party cookies are mostly safe unless you’re visiting some infamous site. Third-party cookies are a little more dangerous because they are by sites other than the one the user visited. Those sites can monitor users’ search history!

Zombie cookies are the most dangerous ones, given the fact that removing them is extremely difficult, and you may not even know that they exist on your device. Just like third-party cookies, these can also be used to track your browsing history.

How can one keep safe from the dangers cookies pose?

Considering the privacy reasons you might want to remove the cookies but the thing is it will make it so much harder for you to navigate through the website. To tackle this problem, you can keep certain necessary cookies and remove the useless ones.

Removing cookies is easy but, before deleting them, keep in mind that you might have to re-enter the information every time you visit the site. 

To remove cookies in general, head to the privacy section in the settings and navigate through to the cookies setting and manage/remove them. To remove other types of cookies like tracking cookies and zombie cookies, you will need to take the help of some internet security software. 

Another way to protect yourself from cookies in the future is using Virtual Private Network (VPN). 

Keeping yourself educated in cyber-security is one more way of being safe on the internet. We at Nautone offer the best course on cyber-security. Visit our website or mail us at hello@nautone.com

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