What are Internet Cookies

What are Internet Cookies?

How many times have you visited a new website and tapped yes upon being asked about cookies? Almost every time, we permit the website to store cookies without reading the complete consent banner or the privacy policy. Have you ever stopped and wondered what internet cookies are and why you should accept them to continue browsing a website? Read everything you should know about internet cookies in this article, explore their role in your digital experience and online identity and discover ways you can protect yourself online all while working with active cookies.

What are Internet Cookies?

An internet cookie is a small packet of data saved on your computer when you visit a website. It is an efficient feature many websites use to collect the patterns of your online behavior. They process these cookies to provide users with a more personalized experience on that particular website. To make the concept clearer, these are user preferences that a web browser sends to a web server. HTTP cookies and web cookies are other names for the same data packets.

Why do websites ask you to accept cookies?

Here are 4 reasons why websites want you to accept these internet cookies.

  • Firstly, websites are supposed to display disclaimers regarding the use of cookies. This is the reason a dialogue box pops up every time you browse a new website. Different regions have different laws about using cookies and retaining user information. Therefore, they notify you that your cookies will be saved before you can start browsing. If you click ‘Yes’ or grant permission to store cookies in one or the way, you’re good to go. If you don’t allow the website to save cookies, you will most probably not be able to browse the website.
  • The other important reason for storing cookies is to provide a smooth and seamless browsing session. For example, when you visit a shopping website and add some items to cart, you will find the same items in your cart the next time you visit that online store. If the website would not store cookies, you will have to add those items to the cart again before checking out.
  • Websites often use internet cookies to micro-target audiences who would be interested in buying certain products and services. You will notice similar advertisements following you on different websites.
  • Websites also store internet cookies to provide a personalized web experience every time you view those particular websites. For example, if you visit the website of a Chinese university, you shall have to translate the page. When you visit the same website next time, you will most probably find it in the English language as per the preferences you had established in your previous visit.

While all the aforementioned reasons sound positive, users often get annoyed because of offensive marketing campaigns and advertisements, which is the direct result of microtargeting through third party cookies.

How many types of internet cookies are there?

Common types of internet cookies include:

  • Session Cookies

Session cookies are temporary cookies that stay on the memory and retain user’s information only for the time a user stays on the website. The browser deletes the session cookie as soon as the user closes the browser. eCommerce websites are the most common users of session cookies.

  • Persistent Cookies

Persistent cookies are permanent cookies and stay even after the user closes the web browser. They usually store sensitive information like passwords and other login data required to access websites.

  • Third-party cookies

As the name suggests, third-party cookies don’t belong to the website you are visiting at the moment. For example, you might visit an e-magazine and find an advertisement for making money online. In simple words, third-party cookies let websites follow you and serve you with ads even after you have left the website. Internet users may also end up installing malware on their devices because of third-party cookies. Third-party cookies also contribute to the formation of a user’s unique digital fingerprint, which when used for illegal purposes can lead to massive financial and identity loss.

  • Zombie Cookies

These cookies recreate themselves after a user deletes them from the browser. Based on their ability to reappear and track user behavior without taking any effect from the deletion process, they can be super harmful: they can slow down the performance of the browser, can impact the device by introducing malware, invite phishing attacks and hurt user privacy even if the user is regularly managing the cookies.

Can internet cookies harm my computer?

Zombie cookies and even some third-party cookies can be tremendously harmful to your devices and your overall internet experience because of the following 5 factors:

  • Internet cookies are part of personal information. This means that websites that store your cookies have a part of data that forms your unique internet identity. Such websites may compromise your privacy and security since they recognize your unique IP address.
  • Some browsers, as part of their features or user settings, accept cookies by default. You might not get a notification, yet those cookies may still consume invisible space in your browser, and your device’s storage.
  • Malware and viruses may take the form of cookies and seemingly ask users to accept them. This is the easiest gateway for a virus to enter a mobile or computer device, replicate itself and cause damage.
  • Websites that allow third-party cookies may also sell users’ data, preferences and overall internet behavior for revenue generation.
  • Cyber Attackers can track your online behavior patterns based on cookies, hack your device, create your digital fingerprint and misuse your data.

As a bottomline, there is no magnitude attached to the damage internet cookies can do to browsers, devices and users’ online presence.

Should I delete all cookies from my browser?

Every browser gives the option to manually enable, disable and delete cookies from a device. You are advised to manage browser cookies to stay safe online. It is, however, not ideal to delete cookies from all websites since you need them to navigate websites and perform activities like shopping: deleting or permanently banning them may significantly affect your online experience. You may have to set your preferences on certain websites again. You may be asked to re-login credentials on important platforms and manually add items to the shopping cart again.

Should I use a VPN to protect against malicious cookies?

Knowing the harm internet cookies can make, are you ready to trade-off security and privacy against a seamless online experience? Absolutely not! iProVPN, in this case, can ultimately protect you with its fool-proof security and privacy features without ever compromising on users’ online freedom.

Final Thoughts

In the last decade, tech giants, law agencies, government officials and security enthusiasts are paying higher attention to the subject. As internet privacy becomes a growing concern, more and more tech researches and tech journalists are contributing to the cons of internet cookies and government agencies are making supreme efforts to create laws that govern the handling of data collected via cookies. Unless there is no strong evidence of cookies to be ultimately safe for users’ privacy, it is ideal to use a secure browser along with a premium VPN running in the background. A VPN will mask the IP address, while a secure browser will encrypt internet searches and provide maximum online privacy.

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