While internet users are starting to become familiar with the popular cookies that collect your data on a daily basis, few are aware of the super cookies and zombie cookies. These persistent and challenging programs, if not impossible to erase, make sure to track your internet activity to better serve targeted ads.
To identify this issue, it is necessary to first understand the purpose of using traditional cookies. Launched on the web in 1994, they are actually small computer icons that are downloaded directly to your computer or smartphone from the websites you visit. The idea here is to collect information about the websites you visit and make it easier for you to browse the web, for example by allowing the webpage you visit regularly to display faster. While they are running, cookies are placed in recognizable files on your computer or mobile phone, and they can be quickly deleted by, for example, emptying your history regularly.
Two types of super cookies
In the case of the super cookie family, “We keep the idea of tracking the same, with the difference that this type of cookie is very difficult to erase,” explains Hisham Bouali, a cybersecurity expert and pre-sales manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Company One Identity, specializes in access and identity management. There are two types of super cookies:
The first is called a flash cookie and it is often used for video ads or for example when you watch a video on YouTube on your TV, you pause and resume it at the same time on your mobile phone, for example.
The second type of super cookie is based on the Unique Identifier Header (UIDH). This code is often injected by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who are the only ones licensed to monitor all of your activities on the web. The problem is, this type of cookie is not hosted on your computer or smartphone, but on the server of your Internet Service Provider. “Therefore, there is no installation of this type of super cookie on your computer, and your antivirus or protection program cannot do anything,” stresses Hisham Bouali.
Private data risk
Thus, the latter refers to the case of the US operator Verizon, which was fined $ 1.35 million for its customers to track to resell data to third parties. “This is the danger of these super cookies. If a normal cookie is saved on one site and it is allowed to collect information for this site only, the super cookie will allow the information to be resold to other sites and partners,” he warns. Also, if your ISP’s databases and server are attacked by a cyber criminal, private data will be leaked. “In the event of a cyberattack of this kind, the ISPs see their responsibility as obligated, and therefore they do what is necessary to protect their server as much as possible,” says Hisham Bu Ali.
The annoying state of zombie cookies
At the same time, super cookies are another derivative known with Zombies Cookies, also called Ever Cookies. Here, these little icons are well hidden in your computers and your smartphones will take over normal cookies, even after manually deleting them. The idea is to keep tracking your activities on the web without your knowledge. Data of interest to marketing related entities and even internet service providers. “However, since these zombie cookies are installed on your computer or laptop, they can be eliminated thanks to tools like antivirus, as they can sometimes be considered malware.”
What advice should I follow when dealing with super cookies?
In order to reduce or even shorten traceability, two solutions must be considered. “By using a VPN, which allows private browsing in incognito mode, the data will be completely encrypted and thus impossible to use by a third party. It is also possible to contact access providers to ask them not to participate in their tracking program. The same goes for companies. Finally, when You change your ISP, you should usually delete everything that has been accomplished and collected. The problem is that we do not always know how long the ISPs keep this data, ”Hisham Bouali concludes.
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