Tag Archives: antispyware

Are cookies the root of all evil?

At least once a week…usually way more frequently, I get asked by a customer if it’s worth it to clear out the cookies from their computer. It seems that pretty much every antivirus and antispyware application deems cookies as potentially malicious tracking information and trys to convince you to “REMOVE THEM AT ONCE!”

Let’s explore the purpose of cookies, shall we? First, an example of what they do: Say you go to www.weather.com to check out your local forecast. The site has no idea where on the globe you’re located at so it asks you for your zip-code or some other location information. Instead of asking you for the same information each time you go to the site, the weather.com website will store a cookie on your computer with the location information YOU provided to it so it saves you some time in the future and makes using their service easier.

You might ask: doesn’t that mean any other website I go to can see that cookie and find out where I’m located at? No, actually it doesn’t. You see, web-browsers (that’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc…) are designed so only the site that creates the cookie can actually view it. So if you go to www.amazon.com, it can’t see the www.weather.com cookie at all.

My quasi-educated guess of why antispyware and antivirus applications detect cookies as malicious is so you feel like they’re doing their jobs and are worth doling out cash for every year or two in-order to get the latest version of their software. Now THAT is another scam I’ll dig into some other time.

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A note on the ‘weather.com example’ – Yes, I know IP geolocation data can be used here but for the sake of this article, let’s ignore that fact since most sites like weather.com don’t seem to use it….I’ve only ever seen IP geolocation data used in AdultFriendFinder.com-like ads anyway.

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