What are cookies and how do they work

How cookies make your accounts more trustworthy
Cookies are needed not only to improve websites' functionality, making authorization easier, and storing users' settings and preferences. They also allow large platforms to collect a user’s history of visiting other websites by placing third-party cookies and pixels on popular pages.

Table of contents

What are cookies?

Essentially, cookies are small pieces of text data that a website you’ve opened sends to your browser. With the help of cookies a website remembers your visits, which makes interactions with it easier and more comfortable for you. Other technologies serve the same goal: browser fingerprinting, pixels, and Web Storage.
Authentication using cookies

Authentication using cookies

What are cookies for?

Website cookies can store browser technical information in small text files. This information can be of almost any kind. Often Internet cookies keep website visit statistics, and login and password of websites and services. Besides account log-in information, cookies can remember the language, currency, font size, goods viewed or added to the shopping cart, IP address and geolocation of the user, date and time of website visits, browser and OS versions, etc.

Cookies are used for:

  • authentication;
  • keeping personal preferences and settings;
  • keeping track of a user’s session status;
  • collecting data about users.

Sessions and cookies

The browser and the server talk though the HTTP protocol. Some data exists only temporarily for the duration of a browser session. Other kinds of data can be kept longer in a separate file. This file is stored on the client side and is usually located in the browser folder. When a user visits a website, service, or a personal account on social media again, the browser applies the necessary settings using data from cookies.
Cookies are sent to a server with a request

Cookies are sent to a server with a request

Major cookie types

Session cookies
Session (temporary) cookies are kept in the browser for as long as the user stays on the webpage. Browsers usually delete session cookies after the browser window is closed.

Persistent cookies
Persistent cookie files are deleted on a certain date, or after a certain period of time. Thus, providing a keep-alive date allows keeping cookies for more than one session. This means that the information from cookie files will be transferred to the server every time a user visits a website.

Authentication cookies
Authentication cookies store information about which account the user logged into on a platform. Without authentication cookie files, users would have to log in on each page of an online resource containing confidential data.

Tracking cookies
Tracking cookies assign each website visitor a unique identifier. Tracking cookies record data about settings, location, and user device parameters. This cookie type also includes information about the visitor's actions on the site.

Zombie cookies
Zombie cookies are stored in multiple folders on the user's device. At the same time, the browser makes backups to make it difficult to delete these cookie files completely. If not all zombie cookies are deleted, the data will be restored from the remaining files.

Third-party cookies

The difference between first and third-party cookies is in who owns them. First-party cookies belong to the currently opened website, and third-party cookies are created and used by other websites that publish their content (e.g., ad banners) on other webpages. Third-party cookies can track a user’s visiting history.

For instance, adding a Meta pixel allows the website owners to identify visitors using cookies, and link these visitors to their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Ad providers actively use this tracking tool to serve relevant ads to website visitors.

If cookies are useful, why delete or disable them?

Deleting or disabling cookies can be useful if you need a web platform to think of you as a new user, or if you don’t want to leave traces of visiting a website on your device.

It is also possible that many users use the same browser to log in to services, e.g., in airport business lounges. Authorization attempts with such Internet cookies present will look suspicious to websites due to security reasons, and they will most probably initiate additional security checks of the browser activity.

Security and privacy risks of cookies

Cookie files are harmless by themselves. However, there are security and privacy threats depending on who (and how) collects the cookies.

First of all, hackers can use cookies for illegal actions. For example, cybercriminals steal cookie files to gain access to user accounts. Also, attackers hack into websites using files disguised as cookies.

Secondly, websites and advertisers track user actions with the help of cookie files. Based on the data stored in cookies, they see which products a person is interested in and then advertise them. That’s the reason that advertisements for products that a person searched for earlier appear on social media feeds, in search results, and on other websites. Some users perceive such intrusive advertising as a violation of their privacy.

Moreover, cookies are considered personal data in many countries. The European Union regulates cookie collection and processing under the GDPR. According to this document, one can only store cookies with the user's consent. In the United States, a law protecting children's online privacy also recognizes cookies as personal data and prohibits collecting them without parental consent. Therefore, storing cookies is associated with risks for both users and website owners who collect cookies.

Why are cookies important for account registration?

Many platforms check website cookies when you’re registering an account with them to make sure that you are a real human being who does what other regular human beings do: visit the most popular websites and services in their area.

That’s why it is important to collect a set of representative cookies in order to create accounts that do not raise suspicions of anti-fraud systems. This will give your account an online history that will in turn raise the level of trust towards a new account.

Of course, you can do this manually: having put together a website list, visit the websites, collect the necessary Internet cookies, and manually convert them to the necessary format — or you can let the Cookie Robot do the work for you.

Importing cookies

Octo Browser allows you to easily import ready-to-use cookies in json and netscape formats. Even if invalid cookies are added to a profile, Octo Browser can fix some of them, so even some of the "broken" cookies will still function.

Advantages of the Cookie Robot

The Cookie Robot is available for all Octo Browser subscriptions. It runs in a headless mode, doesn’t consume extensive resources, and is perfectly suited to collect pixels that will be used when registering an account later. The number of links that you can add to the Cookie Robot is unlimited. Robot opens several links from the list simultaneously, and if a link is invalid, it is simply skipped.

Adding links to the Cookie Robot

How cookies affect account registration and account trustworthiness

Facebook uses advanced user identification technologies and relies on user behavior. In fact, Facebook tracks you even before you decide to set up a Facebook account. In order to create multiple Facebook accounts today you need to invest considerable time in collecting cookies and "brandishing" your fingerprint on websites with Meta pixels. Without these, a successful account registration and an Ad Account launch might be at risk.

Another effective way to check a user’s authenticity is js-requests to Canvas, WebGL, or WebRTC interfaces. The collected data is hashed and serves as a combined browser fingerprint.

Unlike activity imitation and human online behavior, it is not easy to change or spoof a browser fingerprint manually. Large platforms can detect even the slightest fingerprint discrepancies, and can easily freeze suspicious accounts for further investigation.

Octo Browser allows you to use a large number of virtual profiles that successfully pass any antifraud system checks without arousing suspicions. You can read more about this in our article Your digital fingerprint: what it is and how it is used to deanonymize you.

Sites containing Meta or Google Ads pixels

Collecting cookies from pages containing Meta and Google Ads pixels positively affects registration and future security of your account, preventing its random banning. But how does one find these resources?

To do so, you can check any Top Websites Ranking in a given region. Popular resources containing ads and banners most likely embed pixels and third-party cookies from Meta and Google Ads. "Like"‎ and "Share" widgets will send the necessary data to Facebook, Instagram, or other popular social media when interacted with.

You can also use the PublicWWW service. It helps you to find snippets and key words in the HTML, JS, and CSS webpage code. For instance, fbevents. js query will show you a large number of websites containing a Facebook pixel. This list can be useful for obtaining necessary cookies.

Advantages of cookies for multi-accounting

Cookies positively affect both your work and the trust websites give your device. Using different files is absolutely essential for creating independent accounts on the same platform. However, cookie files may contain an identifier that can help antifraud systems check a user’s authenticity. If security algorithms encounter inconsistencies, they will initiate additional account security procedures that you will need to complete for successful authorization.

Octo Browser allows you to securely manage thousands of accounts on the most protected platforms. Our Cookie Robot can collect the necessary cookies and prepare your profile using minimal device resources, meaning that you will encounter far fewer unexpected checks and account bans.

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