What is a Browser Cookie?
An HTTP cookie is a small bit of data stored in the computer’s computer by the web browser when browsing a site. Cookies were developed to be an efficient mechanism for sites to keep track of the visitor’s browsing activities or store stateful information. In common usage, the term cookie refers to any entity (a key, value, etc.) used as an address or username for communication purposes on the World Wide Web. The common terminology often used to discuss cookies is address-uri-name, which is sometimes called “identifier” because it uniquely identifies each instance of a cookie.
Some examples of common cookies are session cookie, which is set during the initial registration process of the browser security cookie, which is set when the user confirms his or her membership to a certain web site, and browsing cookie, which is set every time the browser tries to access a web page. This cookie aims to store information such as the IP address, browser type, page name, and URL of the web page being visited. These details are then sent back to the domain owner or administrator, which can be accessed by clicking on a link to the host server. The term “logged in” can also be used for cookies, but this refers to when the browser user logs in to the domain server instead of logging in as the domain name user. It is also possible for a visitor to “remember” a password for the domain and then use that password to login later.
Some cookie technologies provide additional functionality. These include plug-ins that provide some customizability and functionality and Java scripts that run on the server and are embedded in HTML. Some cookie management systems allow a domain to manage its cookies. These systems allow a domain to save all of the cookies associated with a domain and have them sent to any remote location where a connection to the Internet can be made. Some browsers even support cookie integration with other protocols such as IMAP and SMTP.
There are some drawbacks to using this technology. First, this method of cookie setting up can cause browser crashes. If a bookmarklet or plug-in requests cookies from the server, the browser must read the settings each time needed. This could lead to system errors and the presence of pop-up advertisements. In addition, it has been found that cookies can be leaked to proxy servers, which pose as the original websites they were set up to access.
Another way of managing a cookie jar is to use an OpenID application. This is a free service provided by some browsers. Applications of this nature run on the computer’s operating system and are programmed to read and write specific types of information from the computer’s “cookies.” They can be programmed to accept requests coming from trusted sites and only log the request from an IP address that they recognize. Most of these services provide an anonymous surfing mode, in which pages that the browser does not recognize are shown, while pages that the browser recognizes and accepts are shown.
The simplest and safest way to maintain a cookie jar is to set up a browser cookie with a domain name different from the domain being visited. This technique does not provide a foolproof way of guarding against hackers, but it is easy to implement and works well if there are no cross-domain restrictions. It is also easy to determine which sites a particular user has visited if a cookie is set. If the user types in a domain name that has been previously visited, then their previous browsing activities will also be recorded.
The protection offered by browser cookies is very minimal. For the most part, it provides little to no protection against hackers. However, some malicious websites can hijack a domain that uses a browser cookie, leaving the owner unable to distinguish between the legitimate and the illicit ones. For this reason, and for the ease and convenience of keeping a cookie Jar on a web server, it is often best to use a browser that does not require the individual to manually save each visit into their browser, although there are browsers that offer a means to do this, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer.