November 23, 2021

What It Really Means To Accept ‘Cookies'

6.5 minutes

John Parkinson

Most people simply click ‘YES’ to accept or allow all cookies when they visit a website, but would you be so keen if the question was differently phrased as ‘CAN I TRACK YOU?’ Not all cookies are nice, some contain nasties that you do not want on your computer or network and it is important to know the difference and implications.


What are cookies? -  It’s useful to know exactly what a cookie is and what it is designed to do. Emily Stewart writing for explains that cookies are just small files that websites invisibly send to your devices which are then used to monitor you and remember information about you. Effectively they are tracking you as you browse the web!


Are they all bad? – Many cookies created by the websites you visit are intended to make your online experience easier. They save and cache browsing history, making pages load faster, they can remember login information and site preferences, so you don’t need to set them up every time you visit. However, many cookies, known as third party cookies, might not always be as they seem. These are generated through links and ads on webpages and their purpose is to track your online presence, primarily to show you ads for products or services like the ones on the original webpage. These follow you around even after you have left a webpage and this is how ads suddenly pop up for things you didn’t ask for! Would you like a stalker following around the shops suggesting what you buy and wear?


What harm can they do? – Although most third-party cookies are in themselves harmless, albeit an annoying intrusion into your privacy, some can be hijacked by hackers to invade your computer system giving them access to your web browsing, and in turn steal your private data. This information is valuable to cyber criminals who often sell it on to other criminals who can use your personal data to commit other crimes.


What should I do with cookie alerts? – Following the onset of new privacy regulations in many countries including GDPR in Europe and similar provisions in many US States, websites are required to offer users the option of accepting or opting out from their cookies. In reality, most users understandably accept them without reading the small print, but you SHOULD read the options carefully as these will often enable you to opt out from third party (bad) cookies but still benefit from the good cookies!


What can I do to protect myself from these cookie invaders? – There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk from harmful cookies. Firstly, consider regularly clearing your browser ‘cache’ of cookies. This is where your computer stores cookies from previous website visits that remain lurking in the background tracking your movements. Usually, a quick visit to your browser settings offers a simple way to remove or clear your cache of cookies. Secondly, the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will offer some protection as new cookies will be associated with the remote server of the VPN rather than your personal computer or network.


Online security giant Norton simplifies the differences between ‘good cookies’ and ‘bad cookies’ by explaining which can be helpful and those that should not be accepted:


Good Cookies – mostly okay to accept


  • Those that are required for website access
  • Those that are designed to improve your user experience
  • Those that provide easier logins


Bad Cookies – mostly not okay to accept or keep


  • Any cookie from an unencrypted website (look for the padlock at the beginning of the address to see if it is locked or open)
  • Third-party cookies
  • Those already stored taking up space and slowing down your computer
  • Cookies that are flagged by Antivirus products
  • Cookies on insecure websites where you are likely to enter private information


Data breaches and ransomware are becoming an increasing threat every day, and in some cases, it is the ‘nasty’ cookie that provided the ability to steal the data. As we trade more and more online, giving up our confidential information, it is becoming ever more important for individuals and companies to protect and secure their personal and business data. The detail behind that ‘allow all cookies’ button should be read and understood before being clicked and the greater use of a VPN will help protect you from rogue cookies.


You may have been asked to accept cookies when visiting this website to access this blog – don’t worry, we ensure you only get essential ‘good’ Cookies and we promise not to track you. Ever!


Moving data from one place or platform to another always creates vulnerabilities, so always use a system such as Mercury where collaboration through messages, file sharing, calls and meetings can be held from within one place. This gives piece of mind protecting you from hackers and those who would try to steal your data enabling you to communicate in confidence, with confidence. Every time



John D Parkinson OBE is the President of Secured Communications following a long career in law enforcement, intelligence, counter terrorism and security. He is passionate about maintaining privacy and confidentiality through the use of secure communications technology.

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What It Really Means To Accept ‘Cookies'

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