How to Manage Cookies in Your Browsers

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Cookies were part of the world wide web from its very beginning. They are indispensable on the internet as many times websites need to authenticate a client’s identity, update the contents of a shopping cart, check whether the client has already logged in, and so on.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small pieces of data sent from a website (server) to your computer (client) when you browse that website.

There are different types of cookies with various levels of security. Some, like the ones that require an HTTPS connection, are perfectly fine but some raise privacy concerns.

So called session cookies are stored in your computer’s memory and are deleted as soon as you close your browser. Tracking cookies, on the other hand, are used to track your long-term behavior on a website. Such cookies can be issued both by the website you visited or a third party, such as advertisers who are active on the visited website.

In a worst case scenario, cookie theft may be used by hackers to pose as someone else and steal data, money or identity. Unfortunately, there is no bulletproof way to prevent such a scenario but being vigilant and well-prepared security-wise minimizes the probability of such an incident.

How to Turn Cookies Off?

If you are concerned about your privacy regarding tracking cookies, there is an easy way to delete them or even block them altogether. All major browsers have such settings available for their users. Click on the browser you use to see how to change your cookie settings: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera.

Google Chrome

Click on the ≡ hamburger icon next to the address bar. In the drop-down menu click Settings. Then click Show advanced settings… at the bottom of the page. Then click Content settings….

Alternatively, you can type chrome://settings/content/ into the address bar.

In the Content settings window you can change the settings for your browser’s cookie policy. I recommend blocking third-party tracking cookies by ticking Block third-party cookies and site data.

You can also block first party (local) data or set how long you want this data to be kept but this is usually not necessary.

google chrome cookies settings

Google Chrome cookie settings

Mozilla Firefox

Click on the ≡ hamburger icon next to the address bar. In the drop-down menu click Options.

Alternatively, you can bring up the menu bar by pressing Alt on your keyboard. Then click on Tools > Options in the menu bar.

Within the Options window click on the Privacy tab. In the History section of the Privacy tab I recommend setting Use custom settings for history and selecting Always use private browsing mode and Never to Accept third-party cookies.

mozilla firefox cookies settings

Mozilla Firefox cookie settings

Safari

Click on the settings cog next to the address bar. In the drop-down menu click Preferences. There is also a keyboard shortcut for this action: Ctrl+,. The shortcut works only when the Safari browser is your active window.

Alternatively, you can bring up the menu bar by pressing Alt on your keyboard. Then click on Edit > Preferences in the menu bar.

Click on the Privacy tab within the new window. Next to Block cookies I recommend ticking From third parties and advertisers.

safari cookies settings

Safari cookie settings

Internet Explorer

Click on the settings cog next to the address bar. In the drop-down menu click Internet options.

Alternatively, you can bring up the menu bar by pressing Alt on your keyboard. Then click on Tools > Internet options in the menu bar.

Click on the Privacy tab within the new window. Below the Settings section of the Privacy tab click on the Advanced button. In the Advanced Privacy Settings window I recommend ticking the Override automatic cookie handling box and selecting Block for Third-party Cookies.

internet explorer cookies settings

Internet Explorer cookie settings

Opera

Click on the Opera button in the upper left corner of your browser. In the drop-down menu click Settings. There is also a keyboard shortcut for this action: Alt+P. The shortcut works only when the Opera browser is your active window.

Click Privacy & security in the left pane of the Settings window. Under the Cookies section tick Block third-party cookies and site data.

opera cookie settings

Opera cookie settings

I hope that this post cleared up a bit the confusion about cookies and maybe even prompted you to rethink your strategy regarding cookies.

I have to warn you, though, that cookies are not the only way bad guys can get to you on the internet. That’s why I created a summary of the most effective defensive weapons for your browsers and your internet activities.

Final Thoughts

Have you ever had a security problem that had to do with cookies? If so, make sure to let me know in the comments section below.

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