Cookies provide site owners with valuable feedback on how their sites are being used by users so they can make them more efficient and accessible to them; Allow multimedia or other applications from other sites to be embedded on a particular site to create a more valuable, useful and enjoyable browsing experience; Improve the effectiveness of online advertising.
What is a cookie?
An "Internet cookie" (also known as a "browser cookie" or "HTTP cookie" or simply "cookie") is a small file of letters and numbers that will be stored on a user's computer, mobile device or other equipment from which the internet is accessed. The cookie is installed by a request issued by a web-server to a browser (e.g. Internet Explorer, Chrome) and is completely "passive" (contains no software, viruses or spyware and cannot access information on the user's hard drive).
A cookie consists of two parts: the name and the content (value) of the cookie. Furthermore, the lifetime of a cookie is determined; technically, only the web-server that sent the cookie can access it again when a user returns to the web-site associated with that web-server.
Cookies themselves do not require personal information in order to be used and, in most cases, do not personally identify Internet users.
Session cookies - these are temporarily stored in the web browser's cookie folder for the browser to remember until the user exits the website or closes the browser window (e.g. when logging in/out of a webmail account or social media);
Permanent cookies - these are stored on a computer's hard drive or hardware (and generally depend on the default lifetime of the cookie).
What are the benefits of cookies?
A cookie contains information that links a web-browser (the user) to a specific web-server (the website). If a browser accesses that web-server again, it can read the information already stored and react accordingly. Cookies provide users with a pleasant browsing experience and support the efforts of many web-sites to offer convenient services to users (online privacy preferences, site language options, shopping carts or relevant advertising).
How long does a cookie last?
Cookies are managed by web servers. The lifetime of a cookie can vary significantly, depending on the purpose for which it is placed. Some cookies are used exclusively for a single session (session cookies) and are no longer retained after the user has left the website, while other cookies are retained and reused each time the user returns to that website (persistent cookies). However, cookies can be deleted by the user at any time via the browser settings.
How are cookies used by this site?
A visit to this site may place cookies for the purposes of:
- Site performance;
- Visitor analytics;
- User registration and authentication;
- Keeping products in your shopping cart;
- Saving user preferences.
Why are cookies important for the Internet?
Cookies are at the heart of the efficient functioning of the Internet, helping to generate a user-friendly browsing experience tailored to each user's preferences and interests. Refusing or disabling cookies may make some sites unusable.
Denying or disabling cookies does not mean that you will no longer receive online advertising, only that it will no longer be able to take into account your preferences and interests as evidenced by your browsing behaviour.
Examples of important uses of cookies (which do not require a user to log in via an account):
- Content and services tailored to user preferences;
- Offers tailored to user interests - password retention, language preferences (e.g. displaying search results in English);
- Retention of child protection filters on internet content ("family mode" options, "safe search" features).
Measurement, optimisation and analytics features - such as confirming a certain level of traffic on a website, what type of content is viewed and how a user arrives on a website (via search engines, directly, from other websites, etc.). Websites perform these usage analytics to improve websites for the benefit of users.
Security and privacy issues
Cookies are NOT viruses. They use plain text formats. They are not made up of pieces of code, so they cannot be executed or run themselves. Consequently, they cannot be duplicated or replicated on other networks to run or replicate themselves again. Since they cannot perform these functions, they cannot be considered viruses.
Cookies can however be used for negative purposes. Because they store information about users' preferences and browsing history both on a specific site and on other sites, cookies can be used as a form of spyware. Many anti-spyware products are aware of this and consistently flag cookies for deletion as part of anti-virus/anti-spyware deletion/scanning procedures.
Browsers generally have built-in privacy settings that provide different levels of cookie acceptance, validity period and automatic deletion after the user has visited a particular site.
Other security issues related to cookies
Other cookie-based attacks involve wrong cookie settings on servers. If a website does not require the browser to use only encrypted channels, attackers can use this vulnerability to trick browsers into sending information through unsecured channels. Attackers then use the information to unauthorisedly access certain websites. It is very important to be careful in choosing the most appropriate method of protecting personal information.
Tips for safe and responsible browsing based on cookies
Customize your browser's cookie settings according to your comfort level with using cookies safely.
If you don't mind cookies and you're the only person using your computer, you can set long expiry times for storing browsing history and personal access data. But if you share access to your computer, you may consider setting your browser to delete individual browsing data each time you close the browser. This is a variant of accessing sites that place cookies and deleting any visit data when you close your browsing session.
Install and constantly update anti-spyware applications.
Many spyware detection and prevention applications include detection of attacks on websites. This prevents your browser from accessing websites that could exploit browser vulnerabilities or download dangerous software. Make sure your browser is always up to date. Many cookie-based attacks are carried out by exploiting weaknesses in older versions of browsers.
Cookies are everywhere and cannot be avoided if you want to enjoy access to the best and biggest sites on the Internet - local or international. With a clear understanding of how they work and the benefits they bring, you can take the necessary security measures so you can surf the internet with confidence.
How can cookies be stopped?
Disabling and refusing to receive cookies can make certain sites unusable or difficult to visit and use.
It is possible to set your browser to stop accepting cookies, or you can set your browser to accept cookies from a specific site. But, for example, if you are not registered using cookies, you will not be able to leave comments.
All modern browsers offer the possibility to change cookie settings. These settings are usually found in the "options" or "preferences" menu of your browser.
To understand these settings, the following links may be useful. You can use your browser's "help" option for more details.