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Southampton Solent University
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A cookie is just a small text file which stores information.
When you visit certain websites it stores some information in a text file and then the website can refer back to this information whenever it needs to.
Cookies are used to make your browsing experience faster and more effective. In most cases they just store a number that has been allocated to your browsing session. This allows you to move from page to page within a website without having to log-in repeatedly.
When you log into the Portal a cookie (called portalUsernameCookie) is placed in your computer. This cookie stores your username. Then whenever you visit a page in the portal the website can refer back to the cookie and know what your username is and deliver your personalised information.
The cookie looks like this:
portalUsernameCookie = smith_j; expires = Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:10:23 GMT; path = /; domain =.solent.ac.uk
So you can see it stores the username value, expiry date, domain and website path.
Are they dangerous?
They are not dangerous to your computer in any way, they are not executable programmes, viruses or code and cannot read information that exists on your computer. Cookies are also not a threat to privacy as they only store information that you volunteered to that particular website anyway.
So why are people concerned?
The major concern with cookies is that of third party cookies (a cookie is issued by a site other than the one you are currently surfing, maybe by an advertisement on that website) or tracking cookies which can be used to record peoples browsing histories. This is causing concerns over privacy as people do not want it recorded what they have been looking at.
Cookies can only be accessed by a website with the specified domain and path.
Session cookies only exist until you close your browser and end the current browsing session. Session cookies are never written on the hard drive.
Permanent cookies (also called persistent or stored cookies) store a text file on your computer so if you visit the same website again it.
All webs browsers allow you to control cookies by accepting and rejecting all cookies or certain types of cookie. Instructions for the most popular browsers are below:
If you have Adobe Flash installed on your computer (over 95% of us have a flash plug-in in our browsers) then you will have Flash Cookies stored on your computer (also called Local Shared Objects (LSO)). These work by storing information in a similar way to normal cookies.
Tool on the Adobe website that lets you change your settings and manage your Flash Cookies
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Page last updated on Friday 12 February 2016 at 10.40am.
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