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Cookies

 

What is a Cookie?

A cookie is a short string of text characters saved on your hard drive by your web browser at the request of a web server. The text of the cookie is used to store various kinds of information that the web server can read and can be anything the web server wishes to put into the cookie.

What are Cookies Used For?

Cookies can enhance the browsing experience. For example, if you go to an on-line record store and fill out a form describing your musical tastes, the record store's server may put the information you have entered into a file. It could give that file a name and store the name in a cookie (up to 255 characters of text) which it will give to your browser. The next time you visit that record store site, one of the servers on that domain would look to see if a cookie had been set by itself, or another server on the same domain. It would see the name of the file in the cookie, and retrieve that file from its own hard drive. Then it can shape the record store's web page to reflect the tastes you described on your original visit.

Cookies also may be used to personalize start pages, store usernames and passwords (so the user does not have to retype them every time) and recall items placed in an on-line shopper's cart. Cookies are also used in advertisements on the web, to store information on which ads you have seen and what the types of products that may interest you.

Security Issues

The most important concept to keep in mind when considering cookie security is what has control over the cookies. The answer is-- your web browser. Here's how it works:

When you surf to a web page, the server for that page says the equivalent of "HI!" to your web browser. If you have never been to that web site before, the server may ask your browser if it can give you a cookie. If you have allowed cookies, your browser will say "Okay, give me the cookie." The browser will put the cookie into a special file where it collects and keeps track of cookies.

The next time you visit that site, the web server will say "HI!" again. Since you have been to that site before, your web browser will look through its cookie files, find the cookie that a server on that domain gave you, and give the cookie back to the server. The server can then use the information in the cookie to set up the page you see.

Under no circumstances does the web server read your hard drive. Your browser looks for the cookie which belongs to that server and will only give a cookie to the domain from where it originated.

Security Issues

The most important concept to keep in mind when considering cookie security is what has control over the cookies. The answer is-- your web browser. Here's how it works:

When you surf to a web page, the server for that page says the equivalent of "HI!" to your web browser. If you have never been to that web site before, the server may ask your browser if it can give you a cookie. If you have allowed cookies, your browser will say "Okay, give me the cookie." The browser will put the cookie into a special file where it collects and keeps track of cookies.

The next time you visit that site, the web server will say "HI!" again. Since you have been to that site before, your web browser will look through its cookie files, find the cookie that a server on that domain gave you, and give the cookie back to the server. The server can then use the information in the cookie to set up the page you see.

Under no circumstances does the web server read your hard drive. Your browser looks for the cookie which belongs to that server and will only give a cookie to the domain from where it originated.

For More Cookie Information

The following sites will provide you with a plethora of information regarding cookies.

http://www.cookiecentral.com/   or   http://www.cookiecentral.com/unofficial_cookie_faq.htm

 

How to Change Your Cookie Preferences

Internet Explorer can be set to alert you when it receives a request to put a cookie onto your computer.
To turn on the cookie alert:
Choose Options from your View menu.
Click the Advanced tab.
Click the box next to Warn before accepting "cookies".
Click OK.
Internet Explorer will now give you a warning before it accepts any cookie. The warning will let you accept or refuse the cookie.

 

With Netscape 3.0x, you can choose to be warned before you receive a cookie. With this option, you will be prompted to accept or reject each individual particular cookie request. The default option is to accept all cookies without any warning.
To change the preferences for cookies:
Launch Netscape 3.x.
From the Options menu, select Network Preferences.
Click the Protocols tab.
In the Show an Alert Before section, select Accepting a Cookie to have the option of accepting or rejecting any cookies.
 

Netscape 4.0 has several options for handling cookies. They are accessed through your preference settings.
To change your cookie settings:
Choose preferences from your Edit menu.
Click on the word Advanced
You will see a window labeled Cookies, containing several choices.
Click the radio button which appeals to you.
Click OK
Whenever Netscape receives a request to give you a cookie, it will now take the action you have set in your preferences.
 

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Last modified: June 04, 2008