What is a "cookie"?
A "cookie" (also known as "browser cookie" or "cookie HTTP") is a small size file, made of letters and figures, which will be stored on the computer or mobile device of the site visitor.
"Cookie" files do not contain viruses and do not have access to information from the hard disk of the site user. "Cookies" are text files which cannot be neither executed nor copied and which cannot cause a virus-specific effect.
However, "cookies" can be used as a form of Spyware because they store information on the user, but browsers have options concerning the “cookie” acceptance policy.
Using anti-spyware products and keeping the internet browser updated, you can avoid the effects of "cookies" used inappropriately.
The rejection of all cookies can make the site unusable. For example: you will not be able to authenticate or purchase services.
There are two categories of cookies:
- session, which are destroyed after the browser was closed or after you logged out from the site;
- permanent, which will remain in the memory of the computer or mobile device until the expiration of "cookie" lifetime or until the user deletes it.
What is the lifetime of a cookie?
Cookies are administered by webservers. The lifetime of a cookie can vary significantly, depending on the its purpose. Some cookies are exclusively used for one session (session cookies) and they are no longer kept once the user closed the website, while some cookies are kept and reused every time the user reopens that website (permanent cookies). However, cookies can be deleted by the user at any time using the browser settings.
What are third party cookies?
How cookies are used by a site.
One visit on a website can place cookies for:
- increasing the website;
- the analysis of visitors;
- recording users.
What type of information is stored and accessed by cookies?
Cookies keep information in a small size text file which allows the website to recognize a browser. Webserver will recognize the browser until the cookie expires or it is deleted.
The cookie stores important information which improves the experience of Internet navigation (e.g.: language settings for accessing the site; keeping the user logged in the webmail account; online banking security; keeping products in the shopping cart)
Security and confidentiality-related issues
Cookies are NOT viruses! Cookies use a plain text format. They are not compiled pieces of code, so they cannot be executed nor are they self-executing. Accordingly, they cannot make copies of themselves and spread to other networks to execute and replicate again. Since they cannot perform these functions, they fall outside the standard virus definition.
Cookies CAN be used for malicious purposes though. Since they store information about a user's browsing preferences and history, both on a specific site and browsing among several sites, cookies can be used to act as a form of spyware. Many anti-spyware products are well aware of this problem and routinely flag cookies as candidates for deletion after standard virus and/or spyware scans.
Most browsers have built in privacy settings that provide differing levels of cookie acceptance, expiration time and disposal after a user has visited a particular site.
Key tips for safe and responsible cookie-based Web browsing.
- Customize your browser's cookie settings to reflect your comfort level with cookie security use.
- If you share access on your computer, you may want to set your browser to clear private browsing data every time you close your browser. This option lets you access cookie-based websites while deleting any sensitive information after your browsing session.
- Install and keep antispyware applications updated.
- Many spyware detection, cleanup applications and spyware removers include attack site detection. They block your browser from accessing websites designed to exploit browser vulnerabilities or download malicious software.
How to disable cookies?
Deactivation or refusal to receive cookies can make certain sites unusable or difficult to visit and use them.
The browser setting is possible for no longer accepting the cookies or the browser can be set up to accept cookies from a particular site.