Supercookies – they certainly sound delicious, don’t they? If you’re picturing mouth-wateringly good, giant cookies oozing with chocolate chips, we’re sorry to tell you that you’re definitely barking up the wrong tree. The supercookies we’re going to tell you about are, well, far more displeasing than gooey, chocolatey, edible type.
In order to learn what a supercookie is, you must first understand regular web cookies. You’ve probably heard of these; each time you visit a website, a snippet of code downloads to your web browser which little bits of useful information. These tiny codes are cookies. An example: you log in to Gold Rush Slots to play a few of your favourite games. The information relating to your selected games are downloaded as snippets of information to your browser. The next time you browse through your newsfeed on social media, you come across an advert for Gold Rush Slots. This reminds you of your favourite games, and encourages you to click and play once again. If you want to know more about the brilliant games library at Gold Rush, find out more here.
So those are cookies; they can be a slight nuisance at times, but on the whole rather quite useful. Supercookies, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish. These are a tracking type of cookie that be more harmful. It’s easy to remove regular cookies from your browser; in fact most websites allow you the option quite clearly when you visit their homepage. Supercookies, however, are much more difficult to remove. Where cookies are stored in your browser, supercookies are not (therefore they are not really cookies). Instead, they are snippets of data which is unique to the user’s internet connected; this is incorporated into the ‘HTTP’ header by the ISP, in order to obtain information relating to the person’s browsing history.
This is slightly worrying; first and foremost, as a violation of privacy relating to internet habits and history. Marketing companies can also use them to reinstate previously removed cookies from internet history and link them to newer ones. Supercookies are able to store a variety of data types including metadata; this can be quite alarming in terms of potential data breaches. If hackers obtain the data, this becomes an even bigger threat.
Unfortunately, it is really difficult to delete these harmful supercookies. However, don’t panic completely and shut down your computer forever – there are steps you can take to browse as safely as possible.
Firstly, if you are disposing of hardware such as a printer or photocopier, ensure that their hard drives are removed before placing into the rubbish bin. Refrain from entering personal information onto the photocopier network in the workplace. There are also web browser extensions available for download, such as NoScript on Firefox, which put measures in place to control any website interference from a third party. Use a targeted opt-out plug in for advertising cookies; these will assist in keeping you safe from third party websites. Be vigilant on social media too; for example, accepting an unusual app invitation on Facebook can be risky as they may be full of lurking supercookies. As always when using social media, your personal information, such as birthday, phone number, email address and home address should not be visible to the public. Following the above simple steps will help to maintain your safety while enjoying your browsing leisure time.