What is HTTP Cookies
What is HTTP Cookies
An HTTP cookie (web cookie, browser cookie) is a small piece of data that a server sends to the user's web browser. The browser may store it and send it back with later requests to the same server. Typically, it's used to tell if two requests came from the same browser keeping a user logged-in, for example. It remembers stateful information for the stateless HTTP protocol.
Cookies are mainly used for three purposes; 1. Session management, 2. Personalizatio and 3. Tracking
Session management: Logins, shopping carts, game scores, or anything else the server should remember
Personalizatio: User preferences, themes, and other settings
Tracking: Recording and analyzing user behavior
After receiving an HTTP request, a server can send one or more Set-Cookie headers with the response. The cookie is usually stored by the browser, and then the cookie is sent with requests made to the same server inside a Cookie HTTP header. An expiration date or duration can be specified, after which the cookie is no longer sent. Additional restrictions to a specific domain and path can be set, limiting where the cookie is sent. For details about the header attributes mentioned below, refer to the Set-Cookie reference article.
The Set-Cookie and Cookie headers
The Set-Cookie HTTP response header sends cookies from the server to the user agent. A simple cookie is set like this:
Set-Cookie: <cookie-name>=<cookie-value> This shows the server sending headers to tell the client to store a pair of cookies:
HTTP/2.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Set-Cookie: yummy_cookie=choco Set-Cookie: tasty_cookie=strawberry
GET /sample_page.html HTTP/2.0 Host: www.example.org Cookie: yummy_cookie=choco; tasty_cookie=strawberry
Define the lifetime of a cookie
The lifetime of a cookie can be defined in two ways:
Session cookies are deleted when the current session ends. The browser defines when the "current session" ends, and some browsers use session restoring when restarting, which can cause session cookies to last indefinitely long. Permanent cookies are deleted at a date specified by the Expires attribute, or after a period of time specified by the Max-Age attribute.
Set-Cookie: id=a3fWa; Expires=Thu, 31 Oct 2021 07:28:00 GMT;
Note: When an Expires date is set, the time and date set is relative to the client the cookie is being set on, not the server.
Restrict access to cookies
There are a couple of ways to ensure that cookies are sent securely and are not accessed by unintended parties or scripts: the Secure attribute and the HttpOnly attribute
setcookie (PHP 4, PHP 5, PHP 7, PHP 8) setcookie Send a cookie
setcookie ( string $name , string $value = "" , int $expires = 0 , string $path = "" , string $domain = "" , bool $secure = false , bool $httponly = false ) : bool Alternative signature available as of PHP 7.3.0:
setcookie ( string $name , string $value = "" , array $options =  ) : bool
setcookie() defines a cookie to be sent along with the rest of the HTTP headers. Like other headers, cookies must be sent before any output from your script (this is a protocol restriction). This requires that you place calls to this function prior to any output, including <html> and <head> tags as well as any whitespace.
Once the cookies have been set, they can be accessed on the next page load with the $_COOKIE array. Cookie values may also exist in $_REQUEST.
RFC 6265 provides the normative reference on how each setcookie() parameter is interpreted.
name:The name of the cookie.
Value: The value of the cookie. This value is stored on the clients computer; do not store sensitive information. Assuming the name is 'cookiename', this value is retrieved through $_COOKIE['cookiename']
expires: The time the cookie expires. This is a Unix timestamp so is in number of seconds since the epoch. In other words, you'll most likely set this with the time() function plus the number of seconds before you want it to expire. Or you might use mktime(). time()+60*60*24*30 will set the cookie to expire in 30 days. If set to 0, or omitted, the cookie will expire at the end of the session (when the browser closes).
Note: You may notice the expires parameter takes on a Unix timestamp, as opposed to the date format Wdy, DD-Mon-YYYY HH:MM:SS GMT, this is because PHP does this conversion internally.
path: The path on the server in which the cookie will be available on. If set to '/', the cookie will be available within the entire domain. If set to '/foo/', the cookie will only be available within the /foo/ directory and all sub-directories such as /foo/bar/ of domain. The default value is the current directory that the cookie is being set in.
domain: The (sub)domain that the cookie is available to. Setting this to a subdomain (such as 'www.example.com') will make the cookie available to that subdomain and all other sub-domains of it (i.e. w2.www.example.com). To make the cookie available to the whole domain (including all subdomains of it), simply set the value to the domain name ('example.com', in this case).
Older browsers still implementing the deprecated RFC 2109 may require a leading . to match all subdomains.
Secure:Indicates that the cookie should only be transmitted over a secure HTTPS connection from the client. When set to true, the cookie will only be set if a secure connection exists. On the server-side, it's on the programmer to send this kind of cookie only on secure connection (e.g. with respect to $_SERVER["HTTPS"]).