What are Browser Cookies and How Are They Used?

In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of sites that include a “This site uses cookies, is that OK?” kind of warning in response to regulations imposed by various countries.

The question assumes, of course, that you know what a cookie is.

It’s a surprisingly simple concept that can be used in a variety of ways, ranging from tracking your behavior across the web to ensuring that you don’t need to log in every time you open even a single email.

Read moreWhat are Browser Cookies and How Are They Used?

Supercookies and Evercookies and No Cookies At All: Resistance is Futile

//
I just read an article talking about so-called “supercookies” and “evercookies” — cookies which are supposedly impossible to delete, and left without the computer user’s permission or even knowledge. What are “supercookies”? What are “evercookies”? And how can I protect my computer from them?

I’ll start out by saying that options to protect yourself from supercookies and evercookies are relatively limited, if effective at all.

Supercookies and evercookies are the result of a website owner’s desire (or more often, the desire of the advertising networks used by websites) to accumulate data about computer users and the sites that they visit, even those users that disable or clear cookies in their browser regularly.

Bottom line: clearing cookies isn’t enough — not nearly enough.

And there may be nothing that is.

Read moreSupercookies and Evercookies and No Cookies At All: Resistance is Futile

How do I view cookies in IE 11?

//
How do I view cookies in Internet Explorer 11? There used to be a menu item, but that seems to be gone now.

I had to go searching to figure this one out. While it hasn’t changed a lot, what used to be moderately difficult to discover and easy to do now seems totally obscure.

The good news is that it’s still easy to do.

Read moreHow do I view cookies in IE 11?

What Are Tracking Cookies, and Should They Concern Me?

In two other questions, What can a website I visit tell about me? and What are browser cookies and how are they used? I discussed some of the information that websites get, and techniques that they can use to collect and remember more.

What I didn’t talk about in much detail, is that through clever use of cookies, most typically associated with advertising, it is possible for some services (not sites) to gather a little more information about you. Or a lot.

And thus we have “tracking” and “third party” cookies to talk about.

Read moreWhat Are Tracking Cookies, and Should They Concern Me?

How Safe Is it to Let My Browser Save My Passwords?

//
 I’ve got a quick question concerning saved username/passwords in browsers. Whenever you visit a website and need to login, you’ll be asked (depending on your browser settings) if you’d like to “save” the username/password information to make future logins easier. If you choose to do so, is this username/password information made visible to anyone who has compromised your computer when you access the website in the future? Since the fields are already filled in for you, you don’t actually need to type in anything.

The short answer is yes – if you’re not careful, anyone who walks up to your computer can access those websites as you, or perhaps even walk away with a copy of all your usernames and passwords.

There are actually several important issues around letting your browser – or any utility for that matter – save your passwords. Particularly when we advocate using multiple complex and different passwords for different sites, it’s not only important to use these types of features to keep it all straight, but to use them properly so as not to expose yourself to security issues should your machine ever be compromised.

I’ll review how these features work, and how to use them safely.

Read moreHow Safe Is it to Let My Browser Save My Passwords?

How did a website discover my email address?

//
I visited a website and two days later, I received marketing information through email from that website for their products. How could they know my email without me providing it when I visited the website? Could it be that they have group mailed somehow? The mail came on my Gmail account.

Depending on the site, it could be a coincidence. Many large companies use mass market email and the fact that you received a message might be completely random.

There are several ways that a company could do this… and again, it’s not based on paranoia. You just need to understand what technology these companies have that allows them to do this.

It all boils down to related sites or sites that use related advertising.

Read moreHow did a website discover my email address?

How Can I View Two Different Email Accounts at Once in a Browser?

//
I’m using Windows 7 and I want to keep my two Yahoo email addresses open just like on my cell phone. But when I sign into the second Yahoo email, it signs me out of the first. Ideally, I want both to be open when I turn on the computer so I can view both at any time.

Surprisingly, this is a common desire. Many people have more than one email address these days. You can use a couple of approaches to do this.

Read moreHow Can I View Two Different Email Accounts at Once in a Browser?

Does cleaning cookies force me to re-verify my bank login?

//
Hi, Leo. I believe that every time I run CCleaner, my bank doesn’t recognize me anymore. I then have to go through a whole rigmarole to get on to my account. It’s been suggested that the cause is that I’ve erased the cookie that my bank site has planted and therefore it doesn’t recognize my PC anymore. I use Firefox on XP. Do you agree? How can I identify its cookies so that I can isolate it so that CCleaner will not erase it. If you don’t agree then, what do you think is the problem?

No, I agree completely. It’s absolutely the case that banks and other systems where you need to log in make heavy use of cookies to aid you in the process to further secure your machine – or to just make it possible for you to go from one page to the next without having to log in for every single page. So, yes, cleaning out the cookies, especially if you’re cleaning out all cookies, does exactly what you’ve described. It will force your bank to go through those extra steps.

Read moreDoes cleaning cookies force me to re-verify my bank login?

How Do I Delete Cookies? And Just What Are Cookies, Anyway?

Cookies aren’t as evil as most stories – and some security tools – might have you believe.

A cookie is nothing more than some information a website can save on your computer that your browser then provides back to that same website the next time you return.

Seriously. That’s it. That’s all. That’s a cookie.

It’s what some sites use cookies for that has some people concerned and why you might care about things like deleting cookies, and perhaps even looking inside of them.

Read moreHow Do I Delete Cookies? And Just What Are Cookies, Anyway?