Cookies. Know what they are before you accept them

cookie decoration in shape of christmas tree sprinkled with castor sugar

You may have come across popups upon popups asking you to accept the website’s cookies. Some websites even say that by using them it would make your experience browsing their site even better. But the big question remains, what are cookies exactly?

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What are cookies?

Cookies are text files that websites use to track your online preferences. By preferences, I mean your online browsing activity on the site, language preferences and what you search for on said site.

This makes recommended searches and browsing through that specific website a much more pleasant experience by keeping track of what you’re into. It may also remember your log in info to make logging in easier on that site.

Basically what they do is remember info so that your experience will be faster and more convenient next time you pay a visit to that website.

The files themselves are small and are saved to your browser itself. When you visit a site the cookie or rather the text file is sent to the website so that it recognizes your browser.

Some of them are deleted once you leave your browser, some remain for a longer time and some remain until you or the website manually delete them, I’ll list which is which below.

What are the different types?

Magic Cookie

This version of the cookie is a old one in the books. A sort of predecessor to what we know today. It receives and sends unchanging packets of information to each device, as simple as that. The term ‘magic cookie‘ comes from the fortune cookie which was a cookie with a message buried within.

Http Cookie

An Http cookie is basically a repurposed magic cookie. In modern times these are just called cookies. They retain information as a user visits a website to make the browsing experience better for each user. By remembering this information it helps with searches and login details on the website. This is basically a repeat of the information that I’ve written above but I’ve rewritten it, just in case.

First Party Cookies

First party cookies are those directly made by the website you visit and are the most safe out of them all. As long as the website you are browsing is safe as well.

Third Party Cookies

Third party cookies are ones generated by external sources that are linked to the page you’re browsing. For instance when a page has ads and you browse that page, a cookie might be generated to help the advertisers track your browsing history in order to help them understand which products should marketed to which audience.

Zombie Cookies

Zombie cookies are also from an external source or third party and are permanently installed on your device even when your settings choose not to accept cookies. They have a tendency to rise from the dead meaning they are hard to delete and recreate themselves. Sounds a bit like a virus, doesn’t? But it is nowhere close. The only thing that would make you think it is infectious is the name alone. It’s not out to harm your device, so fret not.

Recommended: How to Scan for Viruses with Windows Security

Session Cookies

These are temporary ones that help sites “rememberusers and their information while on the website. They only “remember” you as long as you’re on the site and once you leave the web browser they are deleted. They are mostly used for shopping sites and e-commerce. You can call them temporary cookies too, if you’d like.

Permanent Cookies

These continue to do their thing even after you leave your web browser. Useful for remembering login details and passwords when browsing its particular site. You can call these persistent cookies as well.

Sites are required by law to delete these cookies after twelve months.

Are they safe?

So with that said you might be thinking to yourself that cookies are invading your privacy and if you’re not, you may be thinking it now, hopefully not.

So are they are safe?

Most of them are but you may have a problem when they track you without consent, that’s a big problem too.

And if you’re wondering whether they can contain viruses, then let me answer that question, no, they do not and cannot infect your device.

But they can be hijacked by hackers who want in on your browsing history and sessions, so be mindful of unsafe sites and links.

So they worry you now?

If they are bothering you, you can either refuse to accept them on sites that you visit. Or you can just remove them if you have already accepted them. And after you’re done there, as a extra measure maybe use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

To remove them you usually would have to reach the privacy settings and select block cookies.

For each device and app it is different though.

For instance in Microsoft Edge you would need to head over to your Settings > Cookies and Site Permissions > Manage and Delete Stored Cookies. Then once you’re there you would either have to enable the ‘Block third party cookies‘ option. Or you would have to disable them completely with the first option available there.

As it says some features on sites may break so be sure to check if everything is still working after.

In the Samsung browser you would have to go through your Browser > Settings > Sites and Downloads > Site permissions > Cookies. Then once there, you could either block third party cookies or you can block all cookies.

So as you can see, for each app and device the process is a bit similar. Just try and look for the privacy or permission settings in your browser. You’ll most likely find the cookie settings there.

As for those that are harder to delete cookies, well, you may want to look into internet security software for that.

So now you know

They are there for a reason and aren’t just a random agreement that asks you to sell your soul… well, your browsers soul, if it even has one. But before you click on those popups make sure to give it a bit of a read, for safety measures.

Remember each cookie has a different use.

If you liked the post or think I left out anything, please leave a comment.

Thanks for reading. (^-^)/

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