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  Oracle Tips by Burleson

Web Stalkers
Chapter 1 -
The Illusion of Anonymity

All about Cookies

Despite its name, in the computer world, a cookie is not a snack.  Cookie is the name given to files that a web page leaves on the hard drive of personal computers.  Cookies help websites learn usage patterns, frequency of return visitors, and other pertinent information.  They can also store private information.  A cookie might be used when shopping online to keep track of items placed in the consumer’s shopping cart.  After paying, the consumer’s credit card number is placed in a cookie on the hard drive of their computer so that the next time they shop at that site, the “Use the same credit card as last time” option is available.

Clearly, this is a potential security risk.  If one website could read another website’s cookies, criminals could gain access to any credit card a user has ever used online.  This is not normally possible, but there are security vulnerabilities that could allow this to happen.  Another problem with cookies is that they identify, to anyone viewing them, which sites were visited.  If someone is looking into the job market and their manager views the cookies, he could see the names of the popular job search sites.

Most web browsers give the user the ability to either prevent all cookies or delete them upon request.  Preventing all cookies would significantly hinder many activities that people undertake on the Internet.  A better solution is to regularly delete cookies manually.  This means that any Internet-related password or account information that has been stored on the user’s computer will be erased.  The next time a web-based e-mail or online shopping site is visited, the user will need to type their user id and password again.  Figure 1.9 shows a typical screen that is used to delete cookies.

The above text is an excerpt from:

Web Stalkers
Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths
ISBN 0-97-45993-9-5

by Donald K. Burleson, Stephen Andert

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