Teach Any Computer Science Class
We have put together a full GCSE Computer Science curriculum that will give you all the teaching materials you need to teach any topic.
Whether you're a brand new Computer Science teacher, or you've been teaching ICT for years, our resources will save you hours and hours of lesson preparation every single week.View the Lessons →
Cookies are small files stored in your browser cache that can do a number of useful things but have also been scrutinized for potentially compromising user privacy.
The name cookie comes from magic cookie, which was an early term for a small piece of data passed between computers usually for identification purposes. Modern browser cookies also identify your computer, but they serve the additional purpose of tracking your activity, which isn’t always as scandalous as it sounds. The way it works is that when you visit a cookie-enabled site for the first time, the site will put a cookie in your computer that contains a unique ID. The website uses this ID to keep track of your session so that the site knows which shopping cart is yours and what you have looked at, so it can suggest stuff. Session management with cookies has many more applications than just virtual shopping carts though. The identifier in a cookie can allow a server to keep track of your login details so that you don’t have to keep entering your password every time you visit a site. It can remember how you have customized the layout or appearance of a page previously, too.
Cookies also allow sites to figure out how many unique visitors they get, since each unique visitor has their own ID contained within a cookie, which is important for webmasters who need analytics data for business development.
Cookies make things more convenient but they can also be used to spy on people.
One of the most common ways that your browser can compromise your privacy is by allowing third-party cookies, which are sent from sites other than the one that you are visiting. For instance, banner ads are often hosted on a different domain than the one you are actually browsing and can plant cookies on your computer that track you across multiple sites, which many people find intrusive and downright creepy. But even worse is the potential for cookie theft, which is exactly what it sounds like. Usually, highly sensitive things like website passwords aren’t stored in cookies but the identifier in a cookie can be used to essentially steal a logged-in session meaning that an attacker could access your shopping cart, bank account or even medical records, without even knowing your password. Browsers usually store your cookies in plain text without any encryption making them a vulnerable target, although using websites that transmit cookie data over a secure connection can help somewhat.
What can you do to mitigate these privacy risks?
First of all, most browsers will allow you to disable third-party cookies with a simple option, so you only get cookies directly from the site that you are visiting. If you want to take it a step further, you can disable cookies entirely, if you don’t mind missing out on the features that they offer.
Another option is if you’ve got cookies, or even in general, to be careful about what you click on and what sites you are browsing. If you are only navigating trusted sites that won’t spy on you, then there is little risk of being spied on, although it is not always easy to tell what sites are trusted these days.
And finally, keep the hard drive of your computer encrypted because if your device containing stored cookies is stolen, it’s an easy way for unwanted people accessing your cookie jar, so to speak.