Cookie

Updated: 11/04/2017 by Computer Hope

CookieFirst introduced with Netscape 0.9 on October 13, 1994, a cookie is a small amount of text-only data saved on your computer while you browse a certain website. This information can be used by websites to help create custom pages for you upon your return visits or save session information. For example, when you put items into an online shopping cart, cookies allow the host site to save them for when you log back in at a later date.

Tip: A cookie is very similar to the ticket you get when you take your clothes in for dry cleaning that helps the dry cleaner find your clothes when you return. The same analogy could be applied to the ticket you get for a repair being done, valet parking, and coat check.

The term "cookie" was coined by Lou Montulli who got the idea from the term "magic cookie," which are packets of data a program receives and sends on Unix computers.

Are cookies safe?

Cookies received over the Internet should be considered more useful than dangerous. Without cookies, you could not have customized settings and would have to verify your identity each time you visited a secure site. Because cookies can be used to track you while at a site and can contain private information, there is potential that the information could be compromised, but it is very unlikely.

If you're concerned about web pages gathering information about your viewing habits, you can disable cookies or increase browser security to prompt you before any cookie is created. However, keep in mind some web pages require cookies to be enabled to work.

Are cookies programs or viruses?

No. Cookies are nothing more than plain-text files that are stored on your computer containing data that helps a website identify your computer. Because these files are plain-text files, they cannot be executed and cannot infect or destroy other data on your computer.

What is a tracking cookie?

A tracking cookie is one that is used by Internet advertisers and marketing companies. It contains unique information about your computer and browsing history, which is used by the company to deliver advertisements it believes you'd be most interested in viewing.

Another type of tracking cookie is a third-party cookie. These types of cookies are added to a computer by a website or company other than that for which the cookie is used. For example, the cbs.com website has a button for liking them on Facebook. Clicking the Facebook Like button on cbs.com adds a Facebook cookie to your computer. Because the cookie for Facebook came from cbs.com, the cookie is considered a third-party tracking cookie.

Why do anti-spyware programs warn me about tracking cookies?

Because these cookies can track your computer, they can be considered an invasion of privacy. It's up to you to decide if you want to save or delete these files. Apart from the potential privacy concerns, tracking cookies pose no threat to your computer and do not contain malware or viruses.

What is cookie stealing?

After logging into a site using the correct username and password a cookie containing a unique token is saved to your computer as a method of identifying you as an authorized visitor to the server. Cookie stealing or cookie theft is a method of grabbing that cookie from your computer using XSS to gain access to your account. Once your cookie has been stolen any computer with that cookie can access your account without needing login details as long as the cookie has not expired or changed since it was stolen.

What is the cookie law?

The cookie law or EU cookie law is a law enacted in the European Union that requires EU companies that use cookies on their websites to help track visitors to notify visitors of the use of cookies and give them the chance to opt out of receiving cookies.

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