We bite cookies: what you need to know about them

114

Have you ever seen a banner advertising a product you were looking for while surfing the internet? Does the page you are accessing store login information for you?

Have you ever seen a banner advertising a product you were looking for while surfing the internet? Does the page you are accessing store login information for you? Do your shopping carts in online stores recommend items that the seller thinks you might like? Do you get the impression that the websites you visit know you inside out? Well – that’s what happens, and it’s all thanks to cookies. When we write about cookies, we do not mean a sweet snack, but Internet cookies or tools used to track your online behavior. Before you start surfing again, maybe it’s time to stop for a while and find out what these inedible delicacies are all about. This way you will know how well your cyber privacy really is.

What are cookies?

A cookie is a message or a small amount of data that the server transmits to your browser after you visit a website in order to store information about your online behavior on your hard drive. Each time you visit a website that uses cookies, your device sends snippets of information to it so that it remembers you and tailors its search to your needs.

There are two basic forms of cookies: temporary and permanent. Temporary or session cookies are stored only for the duration of a single session and are deleted when the browser is closed. Permanent cookies are set for multiple browser sessions and are deleted when their validity period expires or when you delete them yourself. This type of cookie is usually used by websites to modify the way you browse them, for example by remembering user information or using knowledge of what items are in the shopping cart in an online store.

Persistent cookies also allow activities such as adjusting thematic settings in your email panel or receiving local weather updates for your area. Permanent cookies also include those from third parties that are set to track your behavior on other websites. Third party cookie tracking is commonly used by advertisers – they can see what advertising websites you visit and may collect information that could be used to build a complete profile of your preferences.

The good news is that by allowing all of these cookies to access your information, you can use your websites in a more personalized way. However, is such tracking safe?

Are cookies harmful?

Opinions on cookies and privacy are divided. However, everyone agrees that they do not harm computers. However, you must know that cookies can collect personal data and therefore there is a risk that you will fall victim to „man in the browser” attacks. Back in 2011, the independent Italian security researcher Rosario Valotta found vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer that allowed him to obtain the personal data of people unknowingly sharing their cookies with him. Fortunately, these attacks are not very common, and the owners of many websites have started to pay more attention to protecting user privacy – some have even gone so far as to completely block persistent and third-party cookies.

Top tips for protection

You can decide if you want cookies to record your online behavior. To ensure the greatest possible protection and privacy, please follow the guidelines below.

1. Clear or delete your cookies

Each browser allows you to clear history and cookies, and if you don’t want to do it manually, you can use a special tool or feature in a security suite.

2. Adjust your browser settings

Some browsers offer more control over what information is tracked with cookies. To find out what the current configuration is, go to the privacy settings of the browser you are using.

3. Use add-ons

For more advanced cookie management, you can use add-ons for your browser. There are many options, however, if you follow this route, you will be able to modify your cookies according to your needs, e.g. selecting specific cookies and their validity period.

4. Share sparingly

Use common sense when using public computers. Do not enter any personal information that may be stored by cookies, and remember to always log out of your accounts before leaving your monitor.

5. Protect yourself

Naturally, the best protection against attacks is to have effective protection on all devices from which you access the internet