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Cookies – Are they compromising security

Last week, there was a call, a test call I suspect, by one of the users who query upon this subject.

He is a grade 1 goondu but act like he knows the whole thing about PC and we, the helpdesk, are a bunch of losers who are being employed by his company.

During our conversation, he appeared to be a tad too sarcastic but his dumb colours were shown within a minute, when he declared that the reason why his PC is having a lot of virus attacks is because he have a lot of cookies inside the Internet temp folder and we are not helping him by preventing cookies from entering his computer. 🙂

Even after a few minutes of me further explaining to him, he still have doubts upon the true definition of web cookies and said that he rather trust the salesman in SLS than buying us out.

The poor guy, as if immersing himself in his own world is bad enough, I wonder what advice and products he will get when he approach the greedy guys in SLS…

So for the record, let me just share you guys what on Earth are Internet cookies and what are their primary functions.

# What are Cookies

Cookies are messages that a Web server transmits to a Web browser so that the Web server can keep track of the user’s activity on a specific Web site.

#  How are Cookies transmitted

The message that the Web server conveys to the browser is in the form of an HTTP header that consists of a text-only string. The text is entered into the memory of the browser.

# Where are Cookies stored

The browser in turn stores the cookie information on the hard drive so when the browser is closed and reopened at a later date the cookie information is still available.

# What are cookies used for

  1. To collect demographic information about who is visiting the Web site. Sites often use this information to track how often visitors come to the site and how long they remain on the site.
  2. To personalize the user’s experience on the Web site. Cookies can help store personal information about you so that when you return to the site you have a more personalized experience.
  3.  To monitor advertisements. Web sites will often use cookies to keep track of what ads it lets you see and how often you see ads.

Now with all the information that I have presented above, the main important statement would be:

Cookies do not act maliciously on computer systems. Cookies cannot be used to spread viruses and they cannot access your hard drive.

They are merely text files that can be deleted at any time – they are not plug ins nor are they programs.

However, although cookies cannot read your hard drive to find out information about you; however, any personal information that you give to a Web site, including credit card information, will most likely be stored in a cookie unless you have turned off the cookie feature in your browser.

In only this way are cookies a threat to privacy. The cookie will only contain information that you freely provide to a Web site.

Both Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) can be set to reject cookies if the user prefers to use the Internet without enabling cookies to be stored.

In Netscape, follow the Edit/Preferences/Advanced menu.

In Internet Explorer, follow the Tools/Internet Options/Security menu to set cookie preferences.

With this, I hope that at least the visitors in general can understand this better than the guy I have to tediously explain but in the end… 🙂

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