Feasting On Cookies

The following article includes pertinent information that may cause you to reconsider what you thought you understood. The most important thing is to study with an open mind and be willing to revise your understanding if necessary.

Truthfully, the only difference between you and security experts is time. If you’ll invest a little more time in reading, you’ll be that much nearer to expert status when it comes to security.

A “cookie” obtains information sent by a web server to be stored on a web browser so that it can later be read back from that browser. This becomes useful for having the browser remember specific information about a visitor to a particular website. The cookie is a text file that is saved in the browser’s directory and is stored in RAM while the browser is running. The cookie may also be stored on the computer’s hard drive once a user logs off from that website or web server.

Cookies can tell a web server if you have been there before and can pass short bits of information (such as a user number) from the web server back to itself the next time you visit. Most cookies last only until you exit your browser and then are destroyed. A second type of cookie known as a persistent cookie has an expiration date and is stored on your disk until that date. A persistent cookie can be used to track a user’s browsing habits by identifying him whenever he returns to your web site.

Persistent cookies are stored in different places on your system depending on which web browser and browser version you are using. Netscape stores all its persistent cookies in a single file named cookies.txt on your computer. You can open and edit this file with a text editor and delete any cookies that you don’t want to keep or delete the file itself to get rid of all of your cookies. Internet Explorer stores persistent cookies in separate files named with the user’s name and the domain name of the site that sent the cookie.

One use of cookies is for storing passwords and user ID’s for specific websites. On sites with personalized viewing, your web browser will be requested to utilize a small amount of space on your computer’s hard drive to store these preferences. That way, each time you log on to that website, your browser will check to see if you have any pre-defined preferences (a cookie) for that unique server. If you do, the browser will send the cookie to the server along with your request for a web page. Common uses for which companies utilize cookies include: on-line ordering systems, site personalization, and website tracking.

Cookies have some beneficial things. Site personalization is one of the most beneficial uses for cookies. You must have also seen in some websites that when you log in (using a User ID & Password), there is an option for ‘remember me when I visit next time’; that’s possible because it stored your password and id on your machine in a cookie.

Now might be a good time to write down the main points covered above. The act of putting it down on paper will help you remember what’s important about security.

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