Cookies play an important role in facilitating access and delivering multiple services that users enjoy online, such as:
- Personalizing certain settings, such as the language in which a site is viewed, the currency in which certain prices or fees are expressed, keeping the user’s session authenticated in their user account, retaining options for various products (sizes, other details, etc.) in the shopping cart (and remembering these options), thereby generating flexibility in the “shopping cart” (accessing old preferences through the “back” and “forward” buttons).
- Cookies provide valuable feedback to website owners about how their sites are used by users, enabling them to make them more efficient and accessible.
- They allow multimedia or other types of applications from other sites to be included on a specific site to create a more valuable, useful, and enjoyable browsing experience.
- They enhance the efficiency of online advertising.
What is a “cookie”?
An “Internet Cookie” (also known as a “browser cookie” or “HTTP cookie” or simply “cookie”) is a small file composed of letters and numbers that will be stored on a user’s computer, mobile terminal, or other devices used to access the Internet.
The cookie is installed through a request issued by a web server to a browser (e.g., Google Chrome, Firefox), and it is completely “passive” (it does not contain software programs, viruses, or spyware and cannot access information on the user’s hard drive).
A cookie consists of 2 parts: the name and the content or value of the cookie. Furthermore, the lifespan of a cookie is determined; technically, only the web server that sent the cookie can access it again when a user returns to the website associated with that web server.
Cookies themselves do not request personal information to be used, and in most cases, they do not identify internet users personally.
There are 2 main categories of cookies:
Session Cookies – these are stored temporarily in the web browser’s cookie folder to be memorized until the user exits the respective website or closes the browser window (e.g., during login/logout on a webmail account or social networking site).
Persistent Cookies – These are stored on the hard drive of a computer or device (and generally depend on the predetermined lifespan of the cookie). Persistent cookies also include those placed by a different website than the one the user is currently visiting – known as ‘third-party cookies’ – which can be used anonymously to remember a user’s interests, delivering more relevant advertisements to users.
What are the advantages of cookies?
A cookie contains information that links a web browser (the user) to a specific web server (the website). If a browser accesses that web server again, it can read the information already stored and react accordingly. Cookies ensure users have a pleasant browsing experience and support the efforts of many websites to provide convenient services to users: for example, online privacy preferences, site language options, shopping carts, or relevant advertising.
What is the lifespan of a cookie?
Cookies are managed by webservers. The lifespan of a cookie can vary significantly, depending on its purpose. Some cookies are used exclusively for a single session (session cookies) and are not retained after the user leaves the website. Others are retained and reused whenever the user revisits the website (persistent cookies). However, cookies can be deleted by a user at any time through browser settings.
What are third-party cookies?
Certain sections of content on some websites can be provided through third parties/providers (e.g., news boxes, videos, or ads). These third parties can also place cookies via the website and are called “third-party cookies” because they are not placed by the owner of that particular website. Third-party providers must also adhere to current laws and the privacy policies of the website owner.
How cookies are used by this site
A visit to this site may place cookies for the following purposes:
- Site performance cookies
- Visitor analysis cookies
- Geotargeting cookies
- Advertising cookies
- Advertising provider cookies
Cookies for visitor analysis
Every time a user visits this site, third-party analytics software generates a user analysis cookie. This cookie tells us if you’ve visited this site before. Your browser will inform us whether you have this cookie, and if not, we will generate one. This allows us to track unique users who visit us and how often they do so.
These cookies are used by software that determines which country or city you come from. It is completely anonymous and is used only to target content – even when you are on our page in Romanian or another language, you will receive the same ads or can find businesses in your area.
These cookies allow us to determine whether you have viewed an online advertisement, the type of ad, and how much time has passed since you saw the ad.
We use these cookies to target online advertising. We can also use third-party cookies for better ad targeting, for example, showing ads about vacations if the user has recently visited an article on the site about vacations. These cookies are anonymous and store information about viewed content, not about users.
Other third-party cookies
On some pages, third parties may set their own anonymous cookies to track the success of an application or customize an application. Due to the way this site is used, it cannot access these cookies, just as third parties cannot access the cookies held by this site.
For example, when you share an article using the social media button on this site, that social network will record your activity.
What kind of information is stored and accessed through cookies?
Cookies store information in a small text file that allows a website to recognize a browser. The web server recognizes your browser until the cookie expires or is deleted.
The cookie stores important information that enhances the browsing experience on the Internet (e.g., language settings, keeping a user logged in to a webmail account, online banking security, keeping products in the shopping cart).
Why are cookies important for the Internet?
Cookies are central to the efficient functioning of the Internet, helping to generate a user-friendly browsing experience tailored to each user’s preferences and interests. Disabling or refusing cookies can make some sites impractical to use.
Disabling or refusing cookies does not mean you will no longer receive online advertising – it simply means that advertising will not take into account your preferences and interests as highlighted by your browsing behavior.
Examples of important uses for cookies (which do not require user authentication through an account):
– Content and services tailored to user preferences – business categories, interests, locality
– Retaining child protection filters regarding online content (family mode options, safe search functions).
– Providing more relevant advertising to users.
– Measuring, optimizing, and traffic analysis features – such as confirming a certain level of traffic on a website, what type of content is viewed, and how a user arrives at a website (e.g., through search engines, directly, from other websites, etc.). Websites conduct these analyses of their usage to improve sites for users’ benefit.
Security and privacy issues
Cookies are NOT viruses! They use text formats. They are not made up of pieces of code, so they cannot be executed or self-replicate. Therefore, they cannot be considered viruses.
However, cookies can be used for negative purposes. Since they store information about user preferences and browsing history, both on a specific site and on multiple other sites, cookies can be used as a form of Spyware. Many anti-spyware products are aware of this and consistently mark cookies for deletion/scanning within anti-virus/anti-spyware procedures.
In general, browsers have integrated privacy settings that provide different levels of cookie acceptance, expiration periods, and automatic deletion after the user has visited a particular site.
Other security issues related to cookies:
Because identity protection is highly valuable and represents the right of every internet user, it’s important to be aware of potential issues cookies can create. Since they transmit information continuously in both directions between the browser and the website, if an attacker or unauthorized person intervenes in the data transmission process, the information contained in the cookie can be intercepted.
Although very rare, this can happen if the browser connects to the server using an unencrypted network (e.g., an unsecured WiFi network).
Other cookie-based attacks involve incorrect settings of cookies on servers. If a website does not request the browser to use only encrypted channels, attackers can exploit this vulnerability to trick browsers into sending information through unsecured channels. Attackers then use the information to access certain sites unauthorized. It’s very important to be cautious in choosing the most appropriate method of personal information protection.
Tips for safe and responsible browsing based on cookies.
Here are some tips to ensure worry-free browsing with the help of cookies:
- Customize your browser settings regarding cookies to reflect a comfortable level of cookie use security.
- If cookies do not bother you and you are the only person using the computer, you can set long expiration periods for storing browsing history and personal access data.
- If you share computer access, you can consider setting the browser to delete individual browsing data each time you close the browser. This is a way to access sites that place cookies and delete any visit information when closing the browsing session.
- Install and constantly update antispyware applications.
Many spyware detection and prevention applications include website attack detection. This prevents the browser from accessing websites that could exploit browser vulnerabilities or download dangerous software.
Make sure your browser is always up to date.
Many cookie-based attacks exploit weaknesses in outdated browser versions.
Cookies are everywhere and cannot be avoided if you want to access the best and largest sites on the Internet – local or international. With a clear understanding of how they work and the benefits they bring, you can take the necessary security measures to confidently browse the internet.
How can you stop cookies?
Disabling and refusing to receive cookies can make certain sites impractical or difficult to visit and use. Also, refusing to accept cookies does not mean you will no longer receive/see online advertising.
Modern browsers all offer the ability to change cookie settings. These settings are usually found in the browser’s “options” or “preferences” menu.
To understand these settings, the following links may be helpful, or you can use your browser’s “help” option for more details:
For third-party-generated cookie settings, you can also consult the site:
If you want to learn more about cookies and how they are used, we recommend the following links:
IAB Romania provides the following site to provide more information about online advertising privacy: https://www.youronlinechoices.com
For more details on privacy issues, you can also access the following links: www.youronlinechoices.eu