When someone says “cookies” your first thought is probably the warm sweet holiday cookies you just had a few days ago. However, what we’re talking about here are “internet cookies”.

Most people are probably somewhat familiar with this terms or at least seen the pop-ups on the websites you visit asking you to enable them. Even though we oftentimes don’t even give these cookies a second thought it’s important to understand the basic functions of them and how they can effect you.

What are cookies?

A cookie, “browser cookie”, or “internet cookie” is simply a piece of information that is stored on a web browser. While these cookies are super small they do some substantial work. The purpose of most cookies is to track your information and keep a record of your past visits. You’ll often see a pop-up message asking you to “enable cookies” and if you don’t you typically won’t be able to access that website.

The real question is: what are you agreeing to when you click “enable”?

Different Types of Cookies

There are a few different types of cookies. Some of them can actually be beneficial while others may be a little more detrimental. The first type of cookies are First Party cookies:

First party cookies attempt to make your online experience more convenient and efficient. They are responsible for storing login credentials on certain websites or storing shopping carts. Examples of this would be not having to sign into Netflix every time you open the app because it remembers you or when Amazon saves your online shopping cart so you can purchase multiple items at a time. These types of cookies generally try to make your life a little easier and aren’t anything to be majorly concerned about. It’s still important to note that you shouldn’t just be saving you login credentials to any and every website you visit. Be wary of and limit what websites have access to your information and as always develop good password habits.

The second type of cookies are Third Party Cookies. This is where things can get a little creepy…

A lot of times websites can partner with other companies to distribute ads to the websites you visit. Over time these websites will collect information on which sites you visit and what types of products you like. Eventually these websites will start sending you targeted ads. For instance if you really like reading articles about photography then these cookies may start sending you ads about latest camera or lens to be released. This is called remarketing and can be a dangerous marketing tool as some companies may auction and bid on your personal information.

Ways To Protect Yourself

While not all cookies are explicitly dangerous (CIT’s website has them installed) it’s important to still be wary of and take steps to protect yourself from potential threats. The easiest and most helpful tactic is to practice common sense! It’s not a matter of whether or not your data is out there is whether or not it’s being used. Don’t trust websites with shady pop-up ads or no explicit cookie policy and only visit websites you know and trust. You can never completely hide your data, but you can control who you trust it with.

Other steps may include:

Installing an Ad Blocker: Installing an ad blocker can help prevent malicious pop up ads or remarketing strategies.

Delete cookies on a regular basis: This can be done by deleting your browsing history or clearing cookies from your hard drive.

Use incognito mode/private mode: While this option isn’t full proof it can still limit any personal information being stored on your browser.

Cookies themselves aren’t harmful. They can’t infect computers with viruses or other malware. However, some cyberattacks can hijack cookies and enable access to your browsing sessions. The danger lies in their ability to track individuals’ browsing histories. Hopefully, this will help you have a better understanding of cookies and how to be aware of them.

Corporate Information Technologies provides small to mid-market organizations with expert I.T. services including compliance assessment, cybersecurity penetration tests, and comprehensive business continuity planning services. Corporate Information Technologies can help organizations, quantify, create, refine, and mitigate the risks presented by business threatening disasters in whatever form they may be disguised. 

Contact us to learn more and let us show you how good I.T. can be — Don’t Gamble With Your Security

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