Effective Date: Aug 23, 2023
What is a Cookie and how are they used?
A cookie is a file containing a small snippet of plain text as described by RFC 6265 , formatted as a list of expressions (eg name = “John Doe”). These cookies are stored on your computer or other web browsing device in a location specifically for the purpose of saving cookies between visits to the same website. The physical location of the folder varies with the device family, but it is usually in a somewhat protected area among the operating environment’s storage.
Each website you visit, and in some cases even different sections of any given website (ie Shopping), may have its own cookie file. There is no way to access cookies from any other website while connected to a different website; all any website can see is its own cookies.
A typical cookie file might look like
In this case:
- SID is a unique user identification that is assigned and in effect for this visit (session cookie) that is used by the server for security (are they Logged In?) These types of cookies are essential for the normal operation of virtually every website on the internet. If these cookies were disabled, the internet would cease to be in operation.
These are only typical examples of what a cookie may contain. Any secure information should be encrypted by the server before saving it to the browser so that if the cookies do get breached (eg Malware on your computer), sensitive data can’t be compromised.
Before your browser visits any website, it checks the cookie files, and if a cookie file is found relating to the website being visited, the cookies (individual lines) are sent along with the request to the web server. The website will know if you are a returning, registered user…
At any time, with every response sent by the server, the server can add cookies to the collection of cookies for the website. These might be temporary (session) or persistent (saved between visits). The new cookies will be sent along with the original cookies on the next page request.
Various types of cookies are assigned based on their use and life expectancy:
- Session Cookies – Are temporary cookies erased when the browser closes. The next time your browser is started, if you visit the same website again, it will not have access to any information from any previous sessions. Session cookies are critical to proper website operation.
- Persistent Cookies – These cookies get stored by your browser until removed, or they expire. The expiration time is set by the cookie sender at the time the cookie is created. No restrictions exist for time limits on cookies.
How Cookies Can Become a Problem
In the simplest case, anyone using your computer will have full access to all services for which your computer uses cookie access. This can include your bank login and account information, your credit card or other purchasing details, and your social networking log in details. Virtually anyone using your computer can, at some level, impersonate you for good or for bad.
This website uses session cookies, as the website couldn’t operate at any level of efficiency without them. In order to register as a user of this website and be provided with privileged access, you must have cookies enabled in your browser.
We use ‘session cookies‘ during the handling of all web requests to identify individual visitors not personally but by a unique identifier assigned at the beginning of each session. In cases where a user’s browser does not accept cookies, this unique identifier may be appended to all site URLs as variables
‘?id=277fa567cb326e7‘ allowing the same functionality.
This website also uses persistent cookies for connection time, login state, legal document status, visitor preferences, and saving commonly used form field data (ie comment fields) containing non-security sensitive values. These cookies normally expire in anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but in cases where a user must be logged in to use the services, if temporarily side-tracked or at the end of the day, the user can turn their computer off or do something else, and when returning they can continue the in the same state as logged in. If this is a potential problem, the user can forcefully log out of the service.
Cookie processing is automatic on this website and can not be controlled on an individual user level since, without cookies, we have no way of identifying individual users or their preferences. Most current web browsers (ie Chrome, Firefox, Safari) have extensions either included or available that let you view the cookies associated with any visited website and delete them if desired. You may even disable cookies altogether, although you may not appreciate the results.