Web cookies also known as HTTP cookies, are message files derived from a user’s browser and stored in the hard drive, containing personal information of a web user and their surfing practices. The web server or specific website visited sends these files to your browser.
Main Uses of Cookies
- They authenticate sessions.
- Maintain individual settings and preferences page layout and the size of text.
- In websites requiring the user to log in, cookies do the work of tracking individual sessions.
- They memorise specific user details like passwords and user names thus differentiating users.
- Enable customisation of web pages for instance setting the preferred number of search results per page or the preferred user language.
- Saves specific user result filtering information such as whether the user wants filtered results or not.
- Tracking previously visited websites.
Security Risks of Using Cookies
- Cookies have the ability of tracking the specific websites that a user visits which is also a major security concern as someone may track your online dealings and transactions and use the information against you or to rob you.
Getting Rid of Cookies
Unlike dangerous malware like Trojans and viruses, cookies can be easily discarded without having to access or download other software or changing computer settings. All you have to do is to go through all the individual user accounts and different web browsers in your computer as cookies are stored differently in each one of them.
In the case of Internet Explorer (IE), you should right-click on the IE icon which appears on your desktop and once there choose “properties”. Select the “General” option followed by “Delete Cookies” and then click OK.
In the case of Mozilla Firefox, launch the browser and select “Tools” followed by
“Options”. Once there, click on the “Privacy Tab” and then select “Clear Your Recent History” where you should choose “Cookies” and enter OK.
Cookies can therefore be termed as “necessary devils”; text files posing serious security threats yet you cannot avoid them, as you will require regular access to crucial cookie-enabled websites such as online bank accounts and email. The best thing is to be cautious when accessing different websites and online destinations and make sure you don’t leave behind any trace in the form of cookies. Always avoid using public computers to access private online details and services and when you have to always delete cookies after you are done surfing.