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Cookies: What are they and the risks associated with information security and privacy?:
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Cookies: What are they and the risks associated with information security and privacy?

It is becoming more and more common to open a website and find some kind of warning related to the use of cookies and whether…

Reading time: 4 min

It is becoming more and more common to open a website and find some kind of warning related to the use of cookies and whether you allow them to be used or not. Most likely you have accepted them without even reading what they are all about.

In this article, we will find out what cookies are, whether it is safe to activate them and what consequences this can have for you or your machine computer. 

Cookies were created in 1994, at the beginning of the era of computers, by a Netscape Communications employee. The idea was to facilitate the use of the shopping carts. It’s been widely used nowadays in e-commerce, what did not fully exist at that time. 

What do cookies mean in the world of internet?

Cookies are small text files that contain a type of label that carries a unique identification, placed by the website you are accessing. A great deal of information can be stored in this label, such as the pages visited or any data provided to that website, such as: name, e-mail and telephone. 

This information is stored in the cookie and later sent to your browser, which can store this data for later use. In this way, the next time you access the same site, you will be recognized. This means that there must be thousands of cookies stored on your computer right now. 

Steps: 1 – device sends the request to the website / 2 – website sends the requested information and a cookie / 3 – device requests new information and returns the sending to the cookie]

Types of Cookies

There are some types of cookies used on the internet nowadays. Some are harmless, while others can compromise your data,  representing a risk to them. They are:

An example of permanent authentication cookies: when permission is given for the website to remember who you are or save your data for future access. The tracking function can be activated without knowledge of the user, as they automatically happen. 

Risks and privacy

Depending on how cookies are used and exposed, they are able to pose risks to users’ privacy in different ways. Browsers that allow the use of cookies are able to track a user entire path on the internet and this may end up in the hands of third parties, such as advertisers, governments, or other users, in the absence of a higher standard of security. 

Therefore, it is important to be careful when allowing cookies to access unsecured channels or clicking on unknown links, as this can lead to an invasion of your computer and possible hijacking of cookies, which may disclose your personal information to strangers.  Precisely for this reason, this issue has generated several controversies between groups that defend the privacy and security of users and their data, causing the development of specific regulations in several countries to reach control and avoid possible abuses in the use of personal information. An important regulation recently passed was the General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in Brazil in February this year, and also Cookies Regulation which has been in force in the European Union since 2011.

GDPR and cookies

As cookies are able to provide a large amount of personal data and are able to identify users without necessarily needing their consent, from a legal point of view, this means a serious breach of privacy.

Having notices in accordance with the GDPR, which not only allow or block the use of cookies, but also require the user’s permission to define what types of cookies will be used is of vital importance. 

In consequence, it is interesting to take measures to comply with the GDPR if you are the owner of a website or e-commerce, as failure to comply with the measures established by this regulation can result in fines of up to R$50 million to a total or partial ban of the activities that involve any use of the data. 

Reading Recommendation: General Data Protection Regulation and its impact in the customer service.  

Having said that, there is no need to worry and stop allowing all the cookies you find going forward, as they provide functions that are extremely important for the websites to work properly.

The focus is on ensuring that cookies are being used appropriately, as they can be very useful, bringing benefits to users. With the GDPR, the policy for the use of cookies is being updated. By taking some precautions to avoid great exposure, the user’s data will remain safe so that they can be ready to browse all the pages on the internet.