Call out the cookies

Alisha Shinde
Monday, 20 May 2019

Taher Mandiwala, a tech expert, tells us why maintaining a good browser hygiene is imperative 

We’ve all been warned by the IT department guy — ‘Please delete your cookies,’ ‘Please clear your history,’ ‘Your system has slowed down because of the thousands of cookies on your browser.’ 

It can be pretty annoying, but hey the IT guy does have a point, after all. With a hefty amount of data being uploaded every second on the server, cookies that we unintentionally accept from websites, sometimes hinder the speed of the internet. 

To maintain a good browser and digital hygiene, Taher Mandiwala, co-founder and chief technical officer, Hats Off Digital Pvt Ltd, Pune gives us a few points to ponder upon.  

To begin with, Mandiwala says that cookies are the catalysts which help you function smoothly on your browsers. However, they can cause trouble if you don’t know how to manage them. “Cookies usually contain information — when you visit a website and when you log in and so on. The cookie data is stored in your computer, in a file located in your web browser,” he says. He adds that websites commonly use cookies to track users’ site preferences, login status and information regarding active plugins because of which third-parties can leverage them to gather information about users across multiple websites. 

There are times  where we choose (or need) to change our passwords but this presents a problem if we don’t clear our cookies. “Failure to do so could prevent a website from successfully authenticating you for a service. Deleting cookies and creating a new one with the updated login credentials will solve this problem. Hence, I prefer to clean every week. You can also use a programme like cleaner and determine the time you want to clear,” adds Mandiwala. 

When asked if cookies can invite viruses, Mandiwala says that under normal circumstances, cookies cannot transfer viruses or malware to your computer because the data in a cookie doesn’t change when it travels back and forth. It has no way to affect how your computer runs.
“However, some viruses and malware may be disguised as cookies, for instance, ‘supercookies’ can be a potential security concern. Many browsers offer a way to block them. A ‘zombie cookie’ is a cookie that recreates itself after being deleted, making zombie cookies tough to manage,” he says adding that third-party tracking cookies can also cause security concerns, since they make it easier for parties, one can’t identify, to watch where you are going and what you are doing online.

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