TIP: What you should know about “cookies”!

What are cookies?

What you should know about “cookies”! Well, I'm not talking about the little sweet temptations (biscuits / sweets) but the little data that helps the website operators to get to know you better online and to track your activities online.

“Cookies” make your internet experience “more personal”

What you should know about cookies
What you should know about cookies!

“Cookies” not only save the last visit to a website, but also the articles or products viewed. Every time you visit the website, the latest data about your behavior is immediately available and websites therefore show you things and posts that might interest you. This is comfortable and also ensures a good experience when using the pages. On the other hand, many Internet users feel spied on or monitored by this type of “individualization”. For many, this type of customer loyalty is too intimate and violates their privacy. Some even think that cookies are "harmful". In the first place, you are only when there is a lot of sugar in it, and even then it depends on the amount of 🙂 But the online cookies are actually no danger to your own device. But let's look at where the other doubts come from and what the facts are.

VPN- Providers promise to protect privacy, that's true.

But some things in daily internet activities can affect privacy, even if you have one VPNService used. This also includes cookies. Therefore, it is important that you have a basic knowledge of it and that you want to get as far as possible and as little as possible to get involved. Or maybe not.

In this post about cookies I report:

  • An introduction to what cookies are
  • Dier various uses of cookies
  • How cookies can affect security or privacy
  • How to control the use of cookies.

Statement on “tracking cookies”

Browser cookies, tracking cookies or just cookies are small text files that are stored locally on your own device while you open a website. The main use of cookies is to “personalize” websites, ie to display individual content. To do this, visitors are clearly identified, and the idea behind this is that visitors appreciate it when they see content and products that are in their own interests. Have you ever searched for something on Google or Amazon and suddenly noticed that online advertisements appearing on these or other websites then try to sell you the things you were looking for directly? This is because of cookies. Some people like that, others don't. On the one hand, you get advertisements that also match your interests and sometimes a special discount that no one else would now receive. On the other hand, there is of course a strange feeling that foreign companies can know their own preferences so precisely. But everyone has to decide for himself whether he thinks this is good or bad.

So you might wonder where cookies come from? Thats is quite easy.

When you visit a page for the first time, usually every website that exists on the internet. We generated a small text file from the browser, which saves when the page was opened. If you return to this page again another time, then your own browser sends this small text file directly to the website when it is called up. This can therefore recognize that it is the second visit and accordingly therefore also designed content z.Bsp. on the home page or on product overlays.

But there are also so-called “third party cookies”, cookies that come from a source other than the displayed website, Mozilla describes them quite well:

“Third party cookies are cookies that are created by a website other than the one you have just opened. For example: The website example.com has a Facebook “like” button. This integration of Facebook automatically creates a cookie from facebook.com even though you are not actually on this page. This is a third party cookie!

In the example mentioned, this also means that Facebook finds out which page you have accessed and what interested you there. The users are not informed that this data was now made available to Facebook!

Blocking the “third party cookies” means that the web browser then only stores cookies that originate from the domain (URL) of the page visited. Fortunately, it is very easy to block these cookies in any browser. If you have blocked these cookies, advertisements that are shown on the website from other sources are often no longer personalized or sometimes even no longer displayed.

Here is a tutorial on how to block the cookies of foreign websites in the browsers:

Block third party cookies
Block third party cookies

Different uses of cookies

Authentication / Registration

If you are logged in to a website, i.e. in a secure area with a user name and password, this information is also stored in a cookie, so if you visit the website again, you do not have to log in again, but the website assumes that you by placing this information in his cookie, the visitor is also authorized to visit the website on his behalf. This is comfortable but also carries a certain risk. Therefore, the identification and login data of the website are often stored in encrypted form in the cookie.

Remember last visited page

The function that the website can use the stored cookie to recognize which page was last accessed helps, for example, to quickly get back to the last point even with more complex pages. The same functionality is also known on Netflix or YouTube if you can return to the last viewed point after ending a video prematurely. This is a very convenient option that is created by cookies.

save settings

Many websites can also be customized in appearance. Settings are often saved in cookies, which make it possible to use the page each time you visit the site with the settings you made previously. These cookies also save areas of interest or other facts about you. Amazon not only stores the most recently viewed products and categories in these cookies, but also how often you have visited them. From this, good predictions for the interests can be collected and corresponding products can be suggested by using these cookies.

Frequently asked questions about cookies

What can be done against tracking cookies?

As already described, these cookies are often placed outside the website and are intended to provide companies such as Google, Yahoo, etc. with more information about the habits and interests of users. In the case of Google and Facebook, these “tracking cookies” are installed on millions of websites and enable statistics for website operators, but also an even more precise analysis of users and their preferences. It therefore makes sense to prevent these cookies as much as possible. As a rule, there are no disadvantages for the user himself by blocking. I recommend the free browser extensions from “Ghostery“, This tool lets tracking cookies also individually block advertising cookies. You can also allow individual cookies on individual websites. But on the whole, you can block 99% of all tracking cookies when you visit the website and thus regain a good deal of security and privacy.

Can cookies endanger your privacy?

If you are concerned about protecting your privacy, I recommend using your browser in “incognito mode”. Third-party cookies are usually blocked automatically and all existing and created cookies are deleted after the browser is closed. This is the best compromise on the one hand to use cookies, because without many websites no longer function properly today and on the other hand no personal data is stored permanently. This supports the protection of your own privacy, since it drastically reduces the risk of making too much of your own data available to others.

How do cookies affect your own security?

Some people believe that cookies can also be harmful (malware), but that's not true. They are just pure "text files" that have no executive content. In addition, cookies are first stored and read by your own browser, not as you might incorrectly assume that the website stores them directly on your own computer! It is completely harmless to use cookies. But cookies could very well be used to spy on people, which is why some security software can also view cookies as a risk to data security. It always depends on how much data is stored in the cookies and whether it can also be used to try to deceive or hack users.

Is it possible to dispense with the use of cookies?

This is actually no longer possible, most websites use these small text files to make life easier for the user.In many cases, for example on shopping sites, the goods that you put in the shopping cart are also stored in your own cookies, so that would be you can practically no longer place an order if you would generally not allow cookies.

Delete cookies from the browser
Delete cookies from the browser

Attention for cookies WITHOUT encryption

However, there is a risk when using and sending cookies over unencrypted data connections. (Websites without https or without VPN). As the information is usually stored in plain text in the cookies, it is therefore unprotected and can also be intercepted by third parties. These can contain access data but also other personal information. This information may be accessible to others, especially on public WLAN hotspots but also at home!

Encrypted connections are unprotected by proxy servers.

Even if a proxy is used, it can be extracted from encrypted connections and thus be available to others without authorization. I would therefore like to warn you again against using free or free proxy services!

Sometimes the use of one VPNServices are not enough!

My tip for handling cookies is therefore:

  • Block cookies that are not from the website in general (third party cookies)
  • Always use your browser in incognito mode and delete all new cookies that are created after each use.
  • Maybe use a different search engine instead of Google like cookies DuckDuckGo
  • Use one Tracking blockers like “ghostery” to protect yourself from unwanted codes on websites!

Created on: 03/04/2016

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