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The Basics of a Cookie
What exactly is a computer cookie? Cookies are messages which web servers pass directly to your web browser when you visit Internet sites. The term “cookie" is an allusion to a Unix program, called Fortune Cookie which produces a new and different message, or fortune, in each instance it runs. Your browser stores each message in a small file, which is deemed a cookie.txt Each time you request an additional page from the server, your browser delivers a cookie back to the server. Typically these files contain information regarding your visit to the website, and also any information which you have volunteered, like your name, or what you were searching for.
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Typical Examples of Data Collected by Cookies
Usually cookies are utilized to simply track activity on a web site. Each time you visit the site the server gives you a cookie that serves as an identification card. If you return to the site the browser delivers your ID to the server. This allows the server to gather information in regards to pages that are being visited.
Online stores utilize cookies to record your personal information, and also maintain an online shopping cart so that it is unnecessary to enter information each time you visit the site.
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Why You Should Be Worried About Accepting Cookies
The only website that can read a cookie is the one that creates it. Also, web servers are only able to use the information you provide, or choices that you make as you visit the website as their content in cookies.
Cookies make it simple for websites to track access.
When you accept a cookie it does not give a server access to your PC or any of your personal data, unless you have given this information, for instance when shopping on line. Servers are only capable of reading cookies that they have set, this way other servers have no access to your information. Cookies cannot execute code, therefore it is not possible for cookies to deliver viruses.
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Changing Internet Explorer 7 Cookie Settings
In Internet Explorer click on Tools. Then click on the Internet Options menu. Once inside the Internet Options box, then click Privacy. It is in this window you will be able to alter your acceptance of cookes depending upon what you are comfortable with.
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Using Internet Explorer Security Zones to Enable and Disable Cookies
The use of newer Internet Explorer versions will allow you to specify specific settings for each security zone. For instance if you wish to allow Web sites to create cookies that are within your Trusted sites, but request a prompt before creating cookies if they are in your internet zone, or to even not allow cookies if a site is among your Restricted sites you have that option. This approach is a little more difficult but it does allow the user to maintain complete control of their cookies.
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For more information about cookies and how they can be controlled in Internet Explorer, see our articles What are Cookies & Do They Compromise Security? and How to Block Third Party Cookies in Internet Explorer 7
For other web security tips, see our articles How To Check If a Website Is Safe, Securing Your Web Browser's Homepage and Using ZonedOut to Manage Internet Explorer Security Zones.