offer you the most relevant information. Please accept cookies for optimal performance”. It will pop up on your
screen. Most of the time you will click the agree button and go about your merry way. But you are here because you
want to know what exactly cookies are and how they work. It’s not that sweet cookie that grandma whips up in the
kitchen. We are talking about website cookies which are more formally called HTTP cookies
Website cookies simple explanation
A cookie is a small piece of data from a specific website that is stored on a user’s computer while they are
browsing the web. They can have many functions such as: keeping track of a user’s browsing activity in order to
serve up targeted information such as ads for goods and services. This is why when you are browsing Amazon for a
Halloween costume for your dog, you might see ads for more dog costumes on Facebook later that day. Cookies can
also have simple functions like remembering your login details for a specific website such as Facebook so you can
close out of it and reopen it again later without having to log back in again. Cookies can also allow website
owners to track exactly how many unique visitors they are getting to their website because each cookie has its own
unique ID so if user visits the same website two or three times a day, a cookie can allow us to count this as one
unique viewer so website owners can collect more accurate data about their website traffic.
So where did the cookie come from ? How did it get its name? The first cookie was invented in 1994 by a 24 years
old programmer for Netscape Communication named Lou Montulli. He was creating an online store for a company that
said that their servers were getting too full from storing each individual user's shopping cart data while they
were browsing the store. Lou was asked to figure out the way to store each user’s shopping cart data on their
computer which would then save server space for the company and save them money. So he thought back to an old
computing token called the magic cookie which was used to identify when somebody would log into a system by
passing a tiny bit of information between the server and the computer. Lou then recreated this concept for web
browsing and thus the modern-day cookie was born. Cookies today are still used to identify your computer, but now
they have the added function of also tracking your activities, which can be very helpful or be a breach in privacy
depending on how the website decides to use this information. That is why you get a little notification whenever
what they use these cookies for.
Types of Internet cookies
There are several types of cookies, it is depending on how you categorize them
Depending on their lifetime, they can be
A session cookie only lasts for the duration of the users using the website. A web browser normally deletes
session cookies when it quits. A session cookie expires if the user does not access the website for a period of
time chosen by the server (idle timeout) . If someone were to come behind us and use our computer, they wouldn’t
be able to see anything on site that uses session cookies because they would have to answer our username and
A persistent cookie will outlast user sessions. If a persistent cookie has its max-age set to 1 year, then, within
the year, the initial value set in the cookie would be sent back to the server every time the user visits the
server. This could be used to record a vital piece of information such as how the user initially came to the
website. For this reason, persistent cookies are also tracking cookies.
These are kinds of cookies that are used on websites that need to know who we are but offer us the ability to
“remember me” when we enter our username and password. When you select “remember me”, the site will allow you into
your account automatically.
Do not use this feature when someone else is going to use the computer you are on.
If you click the logout function, the cookie will be deleted and you will have to authenticate yourself again.
Judging by their domain, cookies are:
1st party cookies are created and stored by the website you are visiting. They allow site owners to collect
customer analytics data, remember language settings, and carry out other functions to provide you with a good user
Third-party cookies are cookies being set with a different domain than the one shown in the address bar. For
example, if you were to visit SendFlowers.com, it may set a cookie for the address of
ad.someadvertiser.com. Later, when you visit RebuildEngines.com, it will set a cookie for
ad.SomeAdvertiser.com. Both of these cookies will be used by SomeAdvertiser.com to ascertain
that you are the person who sends flowers and works on car.
This is where cookies get a little tricky. Third-party cookies are used by advertising agencies who have clients
that pay for displaying ads for products and services but they don't want to waste money displaying them to people
who are not going to be a customer. So they need to track the types of site you visit and make an educated guess
if you are the kind of person who would be in the market for what they have to offer.
Not all cookies are saved in your
A zombie cookie is any cookie that is automatically recreated after a user has deleted it. This is accomplished by
a script storing the content of the cookie in some other locations, such as the local storage available to Flash
or Silverlight content , HTML5 games and other client side mechanisms.
Zombie cookies are initially used to keep people from cheating in on-line games. These cookies are written from
the little widget you download in order to play the game.
You have to “accept” a download in order to have one of these written to your computer, so if you are not playing
a game or know exactly what is being installed, then select “No”.
A Super Cookie is a cookie with a public suffix domain, like “.com”, “.co.uk”, or”.k12”. Most browsers by default
allow first-party cookies - a cookie with domain to be the same or the sub domain of the requesting host. For
example, a user visiting www.google.com could have a cookie set for all
As companies add more and more services, they want you to easily move from one of their services to another. These
Super Cookies do just that. Make sure you “opt in” to each and every service, some malicious individuals will try
to make their site look like the real site in order to fool you.
How does a cookie work ?
Now, for the age-old question: how does a cookie work? When you visit a website for the first time, let’s just say
it’s an example. An online store on a website puts a cookie on your hard drive that has its own unique
identification code. The site then uses this ID to keep track of your session. The session being your overall
visit on their website from start to finish, The reason it does it is to keep track of things like which item you
put in your shopping cart or which item you looked at so it can suggest similar items or even save coupon code for
you that can be used later even if you close out of the website then come back to it. And they have many more
functions than this. This is just some of the most common ways. Now a cookie is only specific to that website,
meaning that they can’t track you on a totally different website.
In case they can, that’s because of a type of cookie called a third-party cookie. Let’s explain this with an
example. You are browsing around a website and that has a button to like or share on facebook embedded into it.
This button has to talk to Facebook.com, which means that facebook can now send their own cookies through this
website in order to track your activities, and then most likely serve up some targeted ads for you on your
Facebook newsfeed later.
With this technique, social media websites could track you with first party cookies but in a third party context.
Let’s say you create/ register an account on Facebook. Once you do this, you are assigned a first party cookie by
Facebook that is unique to you. After this, you open the website https://www.website1.com which has a Facebook like button on its page. You
get back a response, rendering the website on your browser. On rendering the website, the code snippet or script
is embedded in the website to render the Facebook “like” button, instructing your browser to make a request to
Facebook servers. When doing this, your browser sends your Facebook cookies along with the request. The Facebook
server responds and the like button is displayed on the web website1.com.
This way, Facebook builds a browsing profile of you and would know if you browsed website1.com.
Overall, cookies are a way for a website to remember you, your preferences, and your habits online.
Security threats of Internet cookies
Common risks that can affect users are security and privacy. The leak of personal information will also happen on
any website you visit.
A cookie is nothing but a file stored on your computer that contains data and helps a website identify your visit.
Therefore, cookies themselves cannot be used to spread viruses or malicious code.
However, since Cookies are often used to manage user state (for example login status), there may be some security
related issues when using Cookies. For example, Cookies that save the user's login state are stolen, hackers can
use these Cookies to impersonate the user and perform interactions with the website without logging in. Some
browser extensions allow sharing Cookies so that different users can access the same account without knowing
access information such as username and password.
Here are some of the ways attackers can steal your cookies.
Brute force attacks
In a brute force attack, a hacker tries to guess your session cookie digit by digit. As you can imagine, this is
not very effective and can take a long time, but it still puts you in danger when successful.
This is the most basic yet tedious type of cookie hijacking.
Malware can be used to also spy on you and record your browser session.
A hacker can infect your device with malware that records and hijacks your browser’s cookie files, including your
Cross-site scripting attacks enable hackers to inject client-side scripts into web pages.
When malicious parties collect and log packets that pass through a computer network, often without your knowledge
or consent, it’s called packet sniffing. A network or Wi-Fi analyzer is the tool for this.
Through packet sniffing, attackers can intercept and log your data, including your session cookies.
How to stay safe and secure in the Internet
Not all cookies are privacy breaching parasites and they will generally help you have a much more enjoyable user
experience on the web and save you lots of time. Cookies are not the bad things that Internet programmers are
using to steal your personal information. Used probably, they can really add to your overall experience while
using the Internet. Stick to the advice below and you’ll be as safe as you can be
- Make sure you are using an up-to-date web browser
- Read the privacy notices on the websites you visit
- Make sure your antivirus software has all its updates.
- When it doubts - do not agree with anything.
If you want to prevent third party tracking, for starters, you could modify your browser privacy setting. You
could set it up such as your browser “Blocks third-party cookies” or cross site tracking
cookies. Also switch on the “Do not track” option.
You could set your browser “Clear cookies and site data when you close all window”
You could make your privacy more robust by installing ad/script blocking extensions like Privacy Badger, uBlock
Origin, or Ghostery,.
Besides Internet cookies, you should have a basic understanding of Pixel tracking and the differences between
Tracking Pixel and Cookies for specific work based on what you are looking for.
Moreover, at an advanced stage, if you need to use multiple profiles and want complete security for professional
work, you might need to consider using the Anti-detect Browser tool to have a good security solution . It
will help you create separate browsing environments with their own digital fingerprint: different browser headers
and other identifying information.
Antidetect browsers are often used to manage multiple accounts on social media, control merchant profiles on
e-commerce platforms like Amazon, or run Google Adwords. Now, Hidemyacc is one of the best software for
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