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Understanding the Role and Safety of Cookies

04 December, 2020

As we enter the holiday season, our thoughts turn to family, festivities, and, of course, cookies. However, in the realm of technology, cookies take on a different meaning. These small digital entities often appear on our web browsers, collecting and storing data on our hard drives. Given the ongoing debate surrounding cookies, it is natural to question their safety. With privacy laws becoming more stringent, websites frequently display cookie notices, prompting users for permission to utilize them. In this article, we aim to demystify cookies, exploring their nature and whether they should be a cause for concern.

Unveiling the Cookie

While the concept of delicious cookies has existed since the 17th century, the digital cookie we refer to today emerged in the mid-90s. Termed “HTTP Cookies” by designers at the time, they were likened to magical parcels of information, and the name has endured ever since.

But what do cookies actually do? In the digital realm, cookies collect information while you browse the internet, tracking your activities on specific websites and capturing general browsing patterns. Several types of cookies exist, but we will focus on the most common ones encountered online:

  • Session Cookies: These cookies appear on your web browser when you visit a website and track details such as login credentials, viewed products, and browsing duration. As their name suggests, they expire once you close your browser or navigate to another page.
  • Persistent Cookies: Also known as tracking cookies, these cookies remain active even after you leave a website or closing your browser. They typically track your site visits but usually have an expiration date, rendering them inactive. Persistent cookies offer benefits like retaining login information, sparing you from repeated entry when visiting your favorite sites.
  • Third-Party Cookies: While most cookies originate from visited sites (e.g., Amazon creating a cookie when you visit their website), third-party cookies differ. They attach themselves to your browser even if you have never visited the associated site. This occurs when banners or advertisements are present on websites you visit, even if you do not interact with them. While many pop-up blockers disable this feature, visiting sites without proper cyber protection can result in more than ten third-party cookies attaching to your browser.

Cookie Safety: Should You Worry?

Cookies play a crucial role in the web ecosystem, facilitating marketing efforts, sales, and data analysis. In general, cookies are harmless or, at most, an inconvenience.

You may be surprised by the extent to which your online activities rely on cookies. Deleting all cookies from your web browser and proceeding with your daily tasks will reveal the number of sites that previously stored your login information, necessitating manual reentry.

Moreover, modern cookies are significantly less invasive and occupy minimal storage space on today’s computers. While older computer users may have habitually deleted cookies to conserve limited hard drive space, this is no longer a concern.

Most browsers automatically block third-party cookies, ensuring only cookies from visited sites remain on your computer. However, it is crucial to maintain robust firewall and internet security measures to safeguard against potential hacker exploitation through these entry points.

The Bottom Line: Cookie Safety

Having gained a comprehensive understanding of cookies, it is safe to conclude that, in most cases, cookies pose no significant risks, and accepting them is generally safe. Memory consumption is a negligible consideration in contemporary computing.

Nevertheless, it is important to note two caveats. Firstly, while cookies are largely safe, there is always a possibility of cookies being hacked and maliciously employed. Secondly, certain environments, such as government and medical organizations, impose strict security measures that may prohibit cookie usage.

Should you have any concerns regarding cookies on your system, do not hesitate to contact us. As a Managed Service Provider, we possess the expertise to advise you on any necessary restrictions within your organization. We will work with you to devise a solution that ensures optimal long-term performance.

04 December, 2020