Cookies – not the kind you eat

By | April 13, 2011
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Charlie thinks we take cookies too lightly
I’ve read your opinion about cookies and I think you don’t realize their danger. My security program often warns me of threats and many of them are tracking cookies. I think you’d do your readers a better service by showing a little more concern about cookies. They’re not as harmless as they sound.

Our answer
We’ll stand by our answer that cookies are not dangerous; they are simply text files. They can’t execute (run), they can’t collect personal information from you and transmit it anywhere; they can’t infect your computer and they can be deleted just as easily as a text file or an email – no special software needed. Also cookies cannot track you across the web. Cookies can track you from page to page within a site – or from site to site provided those sites are owned by the same company. They cannot track you across multiple domains or across the web.

Cookies have many legitimate uses. They can save user preferences for sites like weather sites where your location is required on multiple pages – and prevents you from having to continually re-enter your location. They allow you to configure your login page for Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc. Otherwise you’d have to keep resetting your page colors, backgrounds, etc. They give web site owners specific information that may help them improve their sites – and prevent you from seeing the same ad multiple times.

And no matter what cookies do or don’t do, the most dangerous part of cookies is taking your eye off the really dangerous things: key loggers, viruses, spyware, phishing sites, phishing emails, rootkits, malicious downloads, malicious sites, piggybacked downloads (bundling), Trojans, botnets, etc. Worry about cookies is like worrying about your coffee maker at home when you’re walking down the most dangerous alley in the worst section of Detroit at 3:00AM; you have more important, more dangerous things to worry about like someone carrying a gun jumping you and causing you bodily harm. Don’t let the fear mongers scare you. Cookies are the least of your worries.

Security programs couldn’t make cookies sound dangerous enough so they had to think of a more ominous name. Some cool marketing guy thought up the name “tracking cookies” – sounds much scarier than it is. A tracking cookie is still a cookie – just like a rose by any other name is still a rose. One security program one-upped the others by detecting “tracking cookies”. This caused all the others, in order to stay competitive to identify “tracking cookies” as dangerous. I guess the general public feels better if their security program finds something – then they think it’s really working. We prefer our security programs to find nothing – then we know they are really working.

Charlie, we’ll stick with our assessment of cookies, because it’s right. And we’re right by telling our readers to be concerned about the real threats on the Internet – there are a lot of them, but cookies are not one of them.

EB…do we have any more of those sugar cookies that lady from Moline sent us?

One thought on “Cookies – not the kind you eat

  1. Flora M

    I totally agree that cookies are harmless, and most of them are useful. So much so that I have taken the time and effort to tell my anti-spyware programs to ignore cookies for the sites I visit often as I hate to have to reset all my preferences for these sites. Most anti-spyware programs (even the free ones) will allow you to go through the list of detected “threats” and ignore the ones you choose before you do the final quarantine/delete. The first time through can be time consuming (especially if you visit a lot of sites), but once you have done that, adding new site cookies to the ignore list is quick.

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