Bite that Cookie (Part 1)
by Doran Roggio
No doubt you have heard of the computer term cookie. In my Computer
Tutor business I have heard many attempts at defining the term
cookie and very few that I have heard are accurate.
Misconceptions abound as to what they are, what purpose they serve,
and whether or not they are a threat to your personal security.
Upon completing this article you should understand how and what
purpose a cookie serves to your computer and Internet travels.
I will attempt to answer some basic questions to clear up the
most common misconceptions.
1.What is a cookie?
2.What benefit does a cookie provide to the Internet user?
3.Do cookies pose a threat to your personal security?
4.Can cookies be removed from your computer?
WHAT IS A COOKIE
To begin let's examine the basic function of a cookie. Cookies
were originally designed to enable Internet users to access frequented
web sites without having to fill out identifying information on
every return visit.
In simple terms a cookie is merely information stored on your
own computer for future use.
WHAT BENEFIT DOES A COOKIE PROVIDE? On your initial visit to a
web site you may supply personal information and/or preferences.
The web site in turn would then place a cookie containing this
information on your computer. Thereafter each time you returned
to the web page, the information generated from the cookie could
then be used to identify you.
This information could include your personal, financial information
as well as preferences when using that site.
Web pages use this information to rotate ad banners so that you
are not constantly bombarded with the same ads.
This enables variety for you as well as gives the advertisers
better success at targeting your purchasing inclinations. In principal
cookies are harmless enough. That said is there any need for concern?
DO COOKIES POSE A THREAT TO YOUR PERSONAL SAFETY? I have heard
it said that you can get a virus from cookies. This is untrue.
For a virus to be spread to your computer the cookie would have
to be an "executable" file. If a cookie is not stored in an executable
format, it cannot do something hostile.
Basically cookies cannot do harm to your computer. Cookies are
text based therefore will not spread any viruses. The argument
is not so much what cookies can do to your computer , but what
information they can store and pass on to third parties.
Some unscrupulous entities are using cookies subversively to track
your surfing habits on the Web. These ones underhandedly plant
their cookies and then retrieve them in such a way that they are
able to gather detailed information as to your buying habits,
personal information and even your lifestyle. Keep in mind, however,
that cookies can only report on what you have entered.
While this may not present a cause for alarm, we are used to corporations
devising ways to target us with annoying advertising campaigns,
it is alarming, however, to ponder how this portfolio of intimate
information could be significantly used in the future.
CAN COOKIES BE REMOVED FROM YOUR
COMPUTER? You have several options concerning cookies.
You can disable the feature on your browsers that allow cookies.
This can be a nuisance, though, as many Web pages cannot be accessed
if you have cookies disabled.
Another option is to set the browser to ask if you want to allow
a certain cookie to be placed on your computer. This, too, can
be extremely annoying since so many web sites do place cookies,
and you have to repeatedly stop to answer yes or no. Think about
it, how do you know what to allow and what is not acceptable.
In some browsers like Opera, there is a feature that you can set
to only allow a cookie that gets sent directly back to the web
page server that you are currently accessing. This is the better
option of the three, but also hinders the viewing of some web
pages. The option that I like the best is to allow all cookies
and to delete them from my hard drive. In this way you are able
to access the web pages desired and maintain your privacy.
Although web sites will still be to track your movements during
any one session, if you delete the cookies folder contents daily,
or even after each online session, no one will be able to keep
a long term eye on you.
To delete the contents of your Cookies folder click 'Start', go
to 'Programs', then 'Accessories', last to 'Windows Explorer'.
In windows explorer locate the 'WINDOWS' folder and double-click.
The contents of the windows folder will open on the right side
(contents) of the windows explorer. Select the file that is named
'COOKIES'. On the menu bar choose edit and then click on 'Select
All'. This will highlight the contents of the cookies folder.
Right-click on one of the highlighted files and select 'Delete'
and this will remove the cookies from the folder.
You will note that there are two files that you will not be able
to delete. By default Windows does not allow you to permanently
delete these two dat files.In part 2 of this article I will share
some options you may have in dealing with these two undeletable
Doran Roggio, owns her own Computer Tutor business and is an Internet
Marketer. Visit her at: http://doranunlimited.com