A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is usually a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user's web browser while a user is browsing a website. When the user browses the same website in the future, the data stored in the cookie can be retrieved by the website to notify the website of the user's previous activity. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember the state of the website or activity the user had taken in the past. This can include clicking particular buttons, logging in, or a record of which pages were visited by the user even months or years ago.
Although cookies cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer, tracking cookies and especially third-party tracking cookies are commonly used as ways to compile long-term records of individuals' browsing histories — a major privacy concern that prompted European and US law makers to take action in 2011.
Other kinds of cookies perform essential functions in the modern Web. Perhaps most importantly, authentication cookies are the most common method used by web servers to know whether the user is logged in or not, and which account they are logged in under. Without such a mechanism, the site would not know whether to send a page containing sensitive information, or require the user to authenticate himself by logging in. The security of an authentication cookie generally depends on the security of the issuing website and the user's web browser, and on whether the cookie data is encrypted. Security vulnerabilities may allow a cookie's data to be read by a hacker, used to gain access to user data, or used to gain access (with the user's credentials) to the website to which the cookie belongs (see cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery for examples).
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Famous quotes containing the word cookie:
“Living by basic good-mothering guidelines enables a mom to blend the responsibilities of parenthood with its joys; to know when to stand her ground and when to be flexible; and to absorb the lessons of the parenting gurus while also trusting her inner voice when it reasons that another cookie isnt worth fighting over, or that her child wont suffer irreparable trauma if, once in a while, Mom puts her own needs first.”
—Sue Woodman (20th century)