Are cookies bad for your computer?

Are cookies bad for your computer?

 

Are cookies bad for your computer?

Cookies on your computer – you’ve probably heard of them. It’s likely that you use them – even when you’re not aware that you are. But do you know what they are?

(Disclaimer: The cookies I’m talking about are not delicious. They don’t contain any calories or fat. So what’s the point, right? You’ll find out as you read – they really are useful. However, I’ve decided it’s not right to have you read an article about tasteless cookies without rewarding you – so at the end of the article I’ve linked some really delicious cookie recipes from some of my wife’s favorite sites.)

Cookies are small text files that websites leave on your computer. Many websites use temporary cookies to remember your login name and credentials as you navigate the website. Cookies can also keep track of your behavior and preferences. Have you ever been to a website and placed a product in your cart but not logged in, then a couple days later returned to the site to find that the item is still in your cart?  This is one use of a cookie. Maybe you have looked at shoes on one site and then on other sites notice an ad for those same shoes – this is another use of cookies. Have you been to a website that asked which country you are in only the first time – cookie use again.

Cookies can be helpful when browsing the web and some websites require cookies to run correctly. Why, then, do we hear about problems with cookies? Cookies can contain personal information in a non-secure or protected file. Some cookies are from third party ad companies that can track your movement from one website to the next. Although cookies are supposed to only be accessible from the website that created it, vulnerabilities can allow compromised or malicious websites or hackers to access all the cookies on your computer.

Some anti-malware software will identify third party or un-secure cookies as a vulnerability and suggest that you delete them. You should follow your anti-malware recommendation and clean or delete the cookies identified.

Sometimes a website will not load correctly because of a cookie from a previous session.  If you go into your browser settings you can manually delete your cookies and then restart your browser.  This will often fix problems that you are experiencing on a website.

What can you do about cookies?

  • You can go into your browser settings and turn off all cookies – just know that if you do this some websites will not work properly.
  • You can set your browser to delete all cookies every time you close the browser. This will work to delete your cookies on a regular basis – but websites will lose your preferences and not remember that you were looking at those nice shoes.
  • You can enable the Do Not Track function in your browser. Unfortunately websites do not have to follow this request, they are merely made aware of your choice. This option will not prevent cookies or tracking by websites and is an exercise in futility.
  • You can disable third-party cookies. Third-party cookies are most often used to deliver you ads on websites and disabling them does not usually affect your web browsing experience. I recommend enabling this option.
  • You can follow your anti-malware software notification to clean up particular cookies.  I recommend using an anti-malware program that checks for bad cookies and cleans them up.

Cookies can be good and improve your web browsing experience but also can make your personal information vulnerable. Now that you know more about cookies choose the options that best balance privacy and usability. Overall I believe that the last two options listed are good ones for me to recommend.

If you are concerned about cookies or need other help on your computer, contact me and I can help. Call me at 385-200-0750 or click here to message me.

Links about cookies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie

http://www.allaboutcookies.org/

http://www.microsoft.com/info/cookies.mspx

http://esupport.trendmicro.com/solution/en-us/1054702.aspx

http://www.symantec.com/security_response/writeup.jsp?docid=2006-080217-3524-99

http://blog.kaspersky.com/cracking-cookies/

Links about Do Not Track:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_Not_Track

http://log.nadim.cc/?p=112

http://www.pcworld.com/article/219328/why_browser_do_not_track_features_will_not_work.html

Links for delicious cookies:

Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/05/13/chewy-chocolate-chunk-cookies/

Magic in the Middle Cookies: http://www.melskitchencafe.com/2008/12/magic-in-the-middle-cookies.html

Homemade Peanut Butter Oreos: http://chocolatecoveredkatie.com/2013/01/23/homemade-peanut-butter-oreos/

Pizzookies: http://www.ourbestbites.com/2009/03/pizzookies/

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