Should You Be Concerned About Internet Cookies That Give Advertisers Unauthorized Access To Your Computer?

With the endless number of online hoaxes, viruses, phishing scams, and other threats, many people are suspicious of any online program that shares their personal information with the rest of the world – and rightfully so.

However, cookies aren’t always the menacing tools of surveillance many people believe them to be, and in most cases, they do more good than evil.

Unlike viruses and spyware, cookies are not programs that allow unauthorized access to your computer. Rather, they are simple text files that, on their own, can’t do much of anything.

Most cookies are designed to enhance web browsing. On a shopping site, for example, they can store a list of items you’ve selected to buy as you browse through an online catalog. They can also remember your web browsing preferences whenever you visit a particular site.

Most web browsers allow cookies to be read only by the web site to which they belong. This prevents other sites from tracking your online activities. However, some advertisers will put cookies on your computer as a way to recognize your computer at other web sites associated with that advertiser. These are called “third-party-cookies” and they allow advertisers to track your online activities across multiple and different sites.

These are the type of cookies that are good to block. Fortunately, blocking third-party cookies is easy. In Internet Explorer, click the “Tools” menu, and then choose “Internet Options.”

Then click the “Privacy” tab and then the “Advanced” button. Make sure the checkbox “Override automatic cookie handling” is checked. You’ll see options for first-party and third-party cookies. In the third-party cookie options, click “Block.” Then, click “Ok.”

Of course, you should always use a firewall, an up-to-date anti-virus program, and anti-spyware software to protect yourself from real online threats.