What Are Cookies Files and Why They Can Be Dangerous

by Daniel Segun January 6, 2020


Brief Information About Cookies

If you are a frequent user of such browsers as Firefox, Opera, Safari, Edge or Google Chrome, you apparently have already met with the so-called cookies. In this article, we will describe in detail the principle of their work and talk about ways to deal with tracking cookies.

Cookies are the text files, that is, a kind of data set, which is written to our browser by the server after a user’s visiting the site. This set contains important information about the username and password, individual settings and preferences, visit statistics, etc. Every time you visit a particular site, the browser sends a cookie file to the resource server in order to identify the user.

Cookies have an expiration date. By default, they are stored for a period of one Internet session. After the user closes the browser they will be deleted. However, there are cookies with a set validity period. They are stored permanently and are deleted either at the request of a PC user or by the time period set. In most cases, this file is called ‘cookies.txt’ and is stored in the working directory of the installed browser. 

Actually, cookies are harmless and do not work on their own, for instance, deleting data from a PC. Therefore, you should not be afraid of their work. However, despite this fact, certain types of cookies remain active even on the websites from which they were not created, collecting information about your Internet activity and what you click on. They are considered third-party persistent and also known as tracking cookies.

Tracking cookies can be so tough that many antivirus programs consider them to be spyware. Despite all the negativity, these files are so widespread that meetings with them cannot be avoided.

The Main Types of Cookies

First of all, let’s take a quick look at some of the most common types. These include the following:

  • session cookies;
  • permanent cookies.

Each time you clear your web browser settings, you destroy persistent cookies.

Session Cookies

This type of cookies is the most famous. The existence of session cookies is limited to temporary memory. After closing your browser, they disappear.
All cookies that were created without expiration date are automatically assigned to the session. Usually, their use consists of storing products that are in the basket on the electronic sales site (currently more and more resources remember it in the server database).

Personal Persistent Cookies

The peculiarities of this type are the entry in the device’s memory and the expiration date. Only the site that created persistent cookies can use them. The term of their existence depends on the requirements of this resource. These files are stored in the memory of your device even after you close the browser. Due to the fact that the latter uses its own permanent files, this can improve and facilitate the workflow. For instance, with this, when you enter the website, you cannot enter your data again, because the system remembered them.

Third-Party Cookies

Permanent third-party cookies are used to track user actions. They are located in the device’s memory and have an expiration date for the term of use. Unlike session cookies, websites that did not create cookies have access to them. Thanks to this, any information about the user can be tracked and recorded by the creator.

Why Cookies Are Needed

First of all, they are needed for the convenience and comfort of users during working on the Internet. For instance, you have registered on the forum and so that you do not have to enter your login and password again each time you visit the site. Cookies save this information and the visitor automatically enters the forum from his PC. Yes, it is quite convenient. Cookies preserve individual user preferences and their interests on the Internet.

Cookies are also used to collect statistics by advertisers. You probably noticed how from time to time you are “haunted” by online advertising of something you recently searched on the Web. It is not always pleasant, but not terrible, because cookies can be cleaned. Cookies are an integral part of setting up interest-based advertising, so they are used to track user preferences and customize thematic ads.

But still, cookies are recommended to be cleaned from time to time. This is worth doing, first of all, for the security and stability of the computer. The main reasons for clearing cookies are:

  • other users of your computer cannot use your logins and passwords when entering sites;
  • not to clog up space on your computer’s hard drive and thereby not to slow down your PC;
  • on the confidentiality hand: with the help of cookies your work and activity on the Internet can be tracked. And it is not very good.

Many web browsers offer the option to disable the storage of cookies and it is really convenient in terms of privacy. But, on the other hand, then the user will not be able to visit resources that require the included cookies. Therefore, turning on or off cookies is the business of each user. You can delete all cookies at once, but only for individual resources. In particular, you can specify in the browser settings to ask permission for creating new cookies or automatically delete all of them when the browser is closed.

The web browser has certain restrictions on data cookies:

  • in total, up to 300 cookie values can be stored;
  • each cookie cannot exceed 4Kb;
  • up to 20 cookie values can be stored from one domain.

If the limit exceeds one of these figures, then the first-time cookie entry is deleted. If the 4Kb limit is exceeded, the part of the record (from the beginning) equal to the excess of the volume is cut off.

If you want to save passwords to sites so that you don’t have to enter them each time you visit, use the password storage features that are available in every browser.

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