What are cookies?
Web cookies are pockets, or even a file, of information that is stored on a user's web browser while browsing a site. The data it contains includes all information about user visits on that particular website and any other details the user has provided the website with, for example, name, or email address. They’re basically messaging web servers pass to the browsers which the browser will then send back whenever that server is accessed. They’re usually used to remember useful information like items added to a shopping cart, record any and all activity on that server or details entered such as passwords should a user provide the server with that permission by accepting the cookies.
• Cookies are used for improving the usability of websites. Websites store the information regarding the most accessed page or feature on their server is. This gives them a better understanding of the image of their site in the users’ mind as to what the users think is the most needed use of the site. Thus, it helps in the regulation of their interface and working.
• Cookies are used for tracking the users’ browsing habits and behavior. They store all information regarding visits and clicks on the site, shopping preferences, locations, and search history to present targeted ads to their users. E-commerce websites track the user to then suggest items based on the data they have stored.
• Cookies are used for session management. They store all the information regarding the device used as well as the details a user enters during logging in. When a login page is visited, the server sends a unique session identifier. When the user logs in to the website, the identifier is then authenticated after which the server grants access to the user.
DRAWBACKS OF COOKIES:
Cookies are used by the various sites to track and keep the visitor’s information. These are some drawbacks of web cookies:
One of the main drawbacks is the threat to the safety and privacy of the visitor. Cookies may pose a threat to privacy as anyone can open, tamper or interfere with these web cookies.
Cookies are unable to store large volumes of complex data. The storage limit is very minuscule( around 4kb).
As already discussed, Cookies can be tampered with which means that they can be tampered with which means that they can be used as a hacking tool that may allow malicious and harmful viruses into the user’s system.
The actual size of a cookie is very small but as you surf the web more and more; more and more cookies will get accumulated which would ultimately take much storage space. Browsers may start running slow.
Users can disable the cookies in their browsers which in turn defeats the purpose for which cookies were invented in the first place.
They are not secure as they are stored in clear text and no sensitive information can be stored in cookies.
Are cookies safe
The major type of cookies creating privacy issues is third party cookies. In contrast to first-party cookies, these are placed on the website mainly by advertisement servers. It helps them to understand customer behavior and spending patterns ensuring they get the best target audience.
Zombie cookies or at times referred to as flash cookies is a third party cookie permanently installed into your computer. These are difficult to detect and get recreated even after deleted from the user's computer.
They can be used to install malicious software onto a device and even to ban a specific user.
Ingrained threats in cookies
As cookies can be replayed and altered during transfer cookie information forgery happens to be a crucial threat. By impersonating an authentic website, attackers can collect cookies from users thereby getting access to personal information. Cache sniffing allows hackers to obtain cookie content if he accesses the browser or proxy cache. Improper HTTPS(Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) settings enable impersonating users through stolen cookies that do not have 'secure' quality to obtain vital information including email id, banking details, and more. Accepting third-party cookies would equip them to both track the user performance and link these with user personal information through social networks.
Another way, not a way out
Joining Safari and Firefox, Google Chrome announced earlier in 2020 that they will be phasing out third-party cookies in 2022.
Google is currently planning on replacing third-party cookies with a less invasive solution called FLoC. Despite aggregating individual user information, FLoC creates a group of data clustering similar interests of users. This would be utilized to market relevant advertisements taking the browsing experience to a comfort level.
Privacy sandbox is another viable solution utilized by Google to protect their user’s privacy while still allowing advertisers to efficiently track and measure their campaigns. Event Conversion Measurement API can be used in place of third-party cookies to gather updates on ad conversions and this does not recognize customers in similar websites. The shift to Contextual Advertising wherein websites display only advertisements connected to the content can phase out cookies as behavioral aspects of users are not relevant here. Website and browser developers must take prompt actions on the identification of threats and notify users about the same.