Third-Party Cookies: Threats Where You Don’t Expect Them to Be

An invisible army of cyberazzi – third-party cookies and data catchers – are trailing us. They’re reporting our every move to marketing firms. And those firms? They’re collecting a no-holds-barred profile of our online behavior.

Discover ways to outsmart those data trackers and secure your online presence.

What are the possible risks associated with cookies?

Let’s shed light on the reality of third-party cookies and their potential dangers.

Potential privacy violations

Third-party cookies are text files websites put on your computer without your knowledge. They want to know what you’re browsing, searching for, and your location. It’s all part of this big scheme to create targeted ads and sell your personal information.

But here’s the real kicker: third-party cookies have been responsible for privacy violations.

A prime example is how a data analytics firm collected the data of millions of social media users. They used it to create highly-targeted political ads during a US Presidential election. It’s a sobering reminder of how powerful third-party cookies can be.

Security risks

Cybercriminals can use third-party cookies to deliver malware straight to your doorstep. Third-party cookies can build a profile of your interests and habits. They can use that information to create ads and websites with malicious content.

So, when you click on these ads or visit one of these fake websites, you’re opening the door to a world of trouble. You may unwittingly download malware onto your device. And before you know it, they’ve stolen your sensitive data or hijacked your device.

Take, for instance, the infamous WannaCry ransomware attack back in 2017. This attack affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries. The hackers exploited a vulnerability in a multinational tech company’s software. They did so with the help of third-party cookies. The cookies allowed them to use a third-party ad network to distribute malicious code.

How do you mitigate the dangers of third-party cookies?

We need a multi-pronged approach to mitigate the risks posed by third-party cookies. To that end, let me share with you a few tactics that we can use to mitigate the dangers of third-party cookies:

Limiting or disabling third-party cookies

Limiting or blocking third-party cookies can help safeguard user privacy. It can also improve browsing speed by reducing the data the browser needs to load.

You can adjust your browser settings to only allow cookies from trusted sites. There are also browser extensions that provide extra privacy features. They enable users to customize their browsing experience.

And if you can, use privacy-focused search engines. They don’t use third-party cookies or track user behavior.

Use tech solutions that prevent data breaches.

We’ve already established that third-party cookies can compromise our privacy and security. But the worst part is when they lead to data breaches because that’s when things can get more threatening.

A website may store data on its servers if it uses third-party cookies. And if they don’t secure that data, hackers can access their systems. They can use third-party cookies to launch cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks.

If you use the website, cybercriminals can steal your data, including login credentials and financial information. They can use this data for evil, like identity theft, financial fraud, or cyber espionage.

Data breaches can cause financial losses, damage to reputation, and loss of privacy.

Thankfully, there are a few solutions at your disposal.

Password managers generate and store strong, unique, and encrypted passwords. Research shows using one password across multiple accounts is a recipe for disaster. Password managers are a practical step to safeguard your online accounts.
Encryption technology converts data into code only the correct key can decipher. They can keep unauthorized individuals at bay.
Multi-factor authentication requires multiple forms of identification to access sensitive data. It can be a password, a physical token, or facial recognition.
Regular software updates are also critical to avoiding data breaches. Outdated software can be a liability and leave you open to cyber attacks. You must always stay updated with the latest security patches and upgrades.

Improved regulation and enforcement

Governments and regulators are taking action to protect online privacy amid mounting concerns.

Take the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union, for example. It mandates explicit consent from users before collecting their data. Additionally, companies must allow users to opt out of the sale of their data under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA).

Another regulation is the ePrivacy regulation, which the EU is considering. If passed, this legislation would set forth stringent restrictions on tracking technologies.

You can reduce the risks associated with third-party cookies with a little effort. Limit third-party cookies, use privacy-enhancing technologies, and watch for data breaches.


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