The Cookie You Don’t Want a Bite Of

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We accept ‘cookies’ on the internet every day. If you’re not tech-savvy, you may be wondering why you haven’t yet received a packet of Oreos from every single website you’ve visited – I know I am.

And that’s because the concept of cookies aren’t explained to us. Okay, so we know they’re something to do with websites, and data and the internet, but what do they actually do? Why do websites have to check if we’re okay with accepting them first?

Today, a member of our technical team here at Zebra Internet Services gave us a cookie masterclass, and I think it’s worth sharing…

He’s One Smart Cookie…

It all started in 1994, when some bloke named Lou Montulli at Netscape Communications decided that there needed to be a way to track items placed in online shopping carts, something we very much take for granted just 22 years later.

Credited with inventing the concept, Montulli placed a small text file within a web browser, effectively ‘saving’ that information when the page is navigated away from. This was initially known as a ‘Magic Cookie’.

You Actually Need Them…

We need cookies to improve our browsing experience, allowing websites to save things like preferred language, login information, colour scheme and font size – in other words ‘teaching’ the website to understand and remember your requirements.

This information is usually remembered for the duration of your browsing session, and by default, the cookies are set to ‘expire’ once that session is closed or over. Pretty handy when you think about it.

Tough Cookies…

There are some cookies that don’t ‘crumble’ (this is almost too easy) when you close down your browsing session. Some are set with a specific expiry date, and thus will last for multiple sessions, sometimes years.

You can check which cookies remain active in your browser history settings – worth a look just in case there’s any information in there you wish to delete.

Third Party Cookie Monsters…

The website you’re visiting may not be the only one storing your cookies. Most websites nowadays call on third party resources like Google Analytics, who also track and store your browsing information by installing their own cookies on the sites.

Well that’s A Bit Crummy…

Cookies are vulnerable to security risks, but less so than they used to be. When you sign into a website, you’ll be assigned what’s known as a ‘session cookie’. This is proving that it’s you that entered the information, and if you select ‘remember me’ then that cookie is valid for an extended period.

If an attacker manages to capture and hijack that cookie, they could sign in to that website as you. For this reason, most cookies are set on an encrypted connection, so that they can’t be deciphered. This is why we’re often asked to re-enter our password when we want to change account information – cookies shouldn’t actually contain it.

Cookies Are A Legal Requirement…

In May 2011, EU Cookie Law (yes, really) was introduced in a bid to ensure that all websites made you aware that they were collecting cookies. That’s why we get those cookie requests to either ‘accept’ or ‘deny’.

Make sense? If you’re concerned about cookies, or any other security measures on the web, then contact or technical team for advice on 0191 261 2252, or visit our security solutions page over at www.domaincheck.co.uk.

Who’s your #TeamZebra expert?

Camille Taylor

Camille Taylor is Head of SEO and Online Reputation management at Zebra.

@CamilleTaylor34