When you hear the word cookies, usually a certain picture forms in your mind. Unfortunately, we aren’t talking about the tasty treat with chocolate chips. We are talking about the “cookies” of the computer world. The name is quite interesting since computer cookies are not even a physical object. So, what exactly are these cookies and what are they used for? Are there different types of cookies? Are they a good or bad thing?
We are going to explore all these questions and clear up some misunderstandings surrounding cookies.
What is a cookie?
So, what exactly is this cookie? A computer cookie is essentially a text file that a web browser creates when you visit a website on the internet. They are NOT programs or viruses and don’t do anything to your computer or device by themselves. They are used simply to store information with the purpose of improving your web experience and help speed up the internet. When you visit a website, the website sends the cookie to your computer. Once this happens, your computer stores it in a file located inside your web browser.
What does a cookie do?
The purpose of an internet cookie is to help websites keep track of your visits and activity. This could make you a little apprehensive, but it is not always a bad thing. Cookies are used to keep track of your online shopping cart items while you continue looking around the site. If cookies didn’t exist, your shopping cart would empty out every time you clicked a new link on the site.
They can also be used to keep track of your login information. This is helpful so you can have your username and/or password saved on that website for the next time you visit. Many people do find this useful for sites that they access frequently.
Are all cookies the same?
Session cookies and persistent cookies are two different types of cookies.
A session cookie is stored in temporary memory and is available for the duration of your active session within the browser. Once you close the browser, it is removed from memory. This type of cookie allows for tracking during an active session to ensure that a website doesn’t ask for the same information over and over during your “visit”.
A persistent cookie is a file that is stored on your computer/device. These files will remain on your device until its expiration date. The advantage of this type of cookie is for speed and convenience for the user.
These cookies are not inherently a bad thing. They are designed for convenience and to make the users experience easier. There are, unfortunately, people always looking to hack into devices or to be malicious in their internet intent. That is where the following cookies come in to play.
Supercookies, Zombie cookies, and third-party tracking cookies are all forms of cookies that some viruses and malware may be disguised as. These are the ones that we need to be on the lookout for.
How to manage your cookies
If you want to manage your cookies to protect your online activity, here is how to make that happen.
- Open the browser that you use
- Find the cookie storage – this location varies depending on the browser that you use. Try looking for tools or the menu bar or something that says privacy.
- Choose your setting – again, these settings will depend on the browser that you use. Find the option that works best for you and your comfort level.
Overall, cookies can be a helpful tool while conducting business on the internet. Banning all cookies outright can make it difficult to use some websites. Be aware of what all is out there and how to block potential negative cookies from your browser and you can have a pleasant internet experience.