HTTP Cookies and what you should know about them for web browsing
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Mar 03, 2014

What are HTTP Cookies?

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HTTP cookies have been a controversial subject for some time. They came into the public eye in recent times when websites were made to start putting notices onCookies and Web Browsers their websites asking user’s permission to set them on their system. In the case of many websites, declining this permission means you can’t use the site, so many were left with no choice over what to do. Despite the news coverage given to cookies, very few people understand what they are and what they do. Understanding Cookies At the basic level, a cookie is simply a piece of data that a website will send to a user’s computer system or mobile device. They were originally designed, and are still used, to remember previous user activity and actions on a particular website. This proved particularly effective on e-commerce sites. When you click away from an e-commerce site with something in your shopping cart, and then return later to find your product still in the cart, cookies have made that happen. Cookies are also what enables websites to remember credit card details, addresses, passwords, and anything else that you might enter. Again, when used correctly, these are useful, effective, and convenient for internet users who value ease of use. Cookies, Viruses, and Malware One of the more common misconceptions regarding cookies is that they can deliver viruses and malware to websites. This belief is further driven somewhat by cookie tracking and removal services that often cite particular cookies as “dangerous” to a user’s system. However, they aren’t dangerous from this perspective, as many believe, but more from the potential for companies to build a pattern of someone’s internet use and then target them with marketing. Some companies have been able to collect detailed personal information through the use of cookies, which has created much controversy around online privacy. At the same time, most of this has happened as a result of hackers compromising security vulnerabilities within cookies. Cookies for Good Although many people will block cookies owing to concerns they have, ultimately they are a force for good when it comes to the internet. Cookies can prevent you from leaving a personal account logged in on a public system, for example, and they serve a strong purpose in various parts of online authentication. There are various types of cookies, some that stay on a user’s system for the duration of their internet browsing session, while others are set until removed by the user. When you are more aware of the types of information cookies are using then you can clear and approve or deny your usage accordingly.
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