They don’t involve raisins or chocolate chips, but they are bite-sized: the computer version of cookies might not be as tempting as the IRL version, but can certainly come in handy. Essentially, computer cookies are small slices of information that enable convenient and personalised web browsing. These small packets of data are generated by a web server and sent to a web browser that stores the cookies for a predetermined period of time.
What are computer cookies used for?
Generally, cookies are there for web-browsing benefits (although they do also free up storage space on servers). They are used for:
- Session management to ‘remember’ individual login information and user actions or preferences.
- Personalisation to customise a user’s experience, often through targeted advertising.
- Tracking within shopping sites to track items that users view (or have viewed previously) and to record items in a shopping cart while a user browses further. Without these cookies, every time you visited a new page within a site, your shopping cart would revert to ‘empty’.
Different types of HTTP cookies
Get to know your main two types of cyber-world cookies:
These computer cookies are short-lived. They last just for the period of time that you are navigating a website – once you exit a site, the session cookie is deleted. These particular cookies are only ever stored in Random Access Memory, never written to the hard drive.
Rather than expiring when a website is exited or a browser closed, longer-lasting cookies – or persistent cookies – expire only after a specified length of time or after a specified date. These cookies are used for two main purposes – authentication and tracking.
- Authentication cookies help manage user sessions by tracking when a user logs in and under what name. They can also ensure that the correct user information is delivered to the correct user.
- Tracking cookies log multiple visits to a site over time – building up a picture of a user based on what they browse when they return to a site. This information can be used for targeted advertising, but can also help users by retaining details such as log-in credentials.
Managing your computer cookies (and any cookie concerns)
Computer cookies consist of information that is sent out and back without being changed. This unaltered data cannot infect your computer with viruses or malware. Unfortunately, some internet nasties may be disguised as cookies (known as ‘super cookies’ – which many browsers will be able to block). Some cyberattacks can hijack cookies, enabling access to a user’s browsing sessions.
Cookies are an optional part of your internet experience. However, banning all cookies may make some websites difficult to navigate. Different browsers store their cookies in different places, but all will allow you to remove cookies already stored. Plus, allow you to choose how future cookies are collected or stored. (Generally, the cookie section of a browser is found under Settings > Privacy.)
Choose Geelong’s IT experts for your internet security
Regardless of how you manage and govern cookies, it’s best to remain vigilant and clean up your cookies regularly. If you are concerned about your online security when it comes utilising cookies, or if you’re not 100% confident regarding the online security of your business, Geelong Technology Group is here to help.
With our extensive experience and comprehensive cybersecurity solutions, we can assess your current situation and recommend actions to ensure your business is safeguarded against cyber threats in the future, so get in contact today.
1300 GET GTG (1300 438 484)