C is for Cookies

FCS -  CookieC is for Cookies, that’s good enough for me.
C is for Cookies, are they really safe?

Um, no! That’s not how that song goes! Of course cookies are safe! I bake them every Christmas! No one’s died eating my cookies yet! What are you talking about?!

There is a little method websites use for a variety of purposes, that uses a tiny file that has been termed a “cookie”. It remains a mystery why these tiny files were termed a cookie, but they were. In fact, tracing these little files back to their original source is also referred to as following a trail of cookie crumbs.

But what are these files, and why do websites use them? Are they safe to keep around?

Way back in the infancy of the World Wide Web, roughly 10 – 12 years ago, web masters discovered a way to have their websites “remember” where you had surfed last, what you bought last, your username and password so you didn’t have to log in all the time, and maybe even your contact information so you didn’t have to type it in every time you wanted to buy something. Cookies were touted as your friend, a real time saver to the customer, and a wealth of marketing data to the seller on the ‘net.

But as time went on, some less reputable web masters discovered they could make money by selling the information in these little files, and began to create them so that they updated the website every time you visited. Now these cookies weren’t merely holding information, they were reporting it too. So whenever anyone entered personal information at these sites, these shady webmasters would begin sending email offers the customer hadn’t asked for, or emails for sites the customer had never visited.

The WWW continued to grow and mature, and webmasters discovered pop-up windows. These nifty little creations got their advertisements out in little boxes that the person could close. BUT. . . these ads could also deposit cookies onto the customer’s computer to gather data to report back to the webmaster.

The situation just got worse and worse to the point that now, in the present, we now have two types of cookies. Those that are time savers for the customer, and those that technicians see as invaders on your computer that need to be removed.

There are various ways to handle cookies. One way is to block cookies. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape and Opera(the browser, not the production) all have an area where you can turn cookies off, or set your browser to only accept certain kinds of cookies. In IE, you can get to these settings in the Security tab of Internet Options under Tools on your IE menu bar at the top. In Netscape and Opera, this option is under Preferences/Privacy settings. In Firefox you’ll find this under Tools, Options, Privacy and change the history setting to “Custom”.

Many websites still require that you have your browser set to accept All Cookies or you won’t get access to their sites. Cookies set by banking institutions, health institutions, or membership sites that are proven to be safe are fine to keep around.

Another way to handle potentially dangerous cookies, is to download and run the immunization feature of SpyBot. Get FCS to help you as we’ll be able to guide you on how to safely use this very powerful program. When immunized, many of the advertising banners, pop-ups, and such won’t be able to deposit their cookies onto your computer. Spybot immunizes your computer against over 240 different invasive cookie-planting advertisers.

The last way to deal with cookies, is to make them part of your monthly disk maintenance routine. Go into Internet Options for IE, or Preferences/Privacy for Netscape, or Tools/Options/Privacy/History (change to custom) and delete all cookies present.

The bottom line on Internet-based cookies is that many are nolonger safe and should be removed or prevented from being placed on your system.

C is for Cookies, are they really safe?
C is for Cookies, don’t put them on your plate.
C is for Cookies, not good enough for me.
OH! CookieCookieCookieCookie get away from me!

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