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Tracking Cookie

Updated:
July 22, 2014 5:37:41 PM
Type:
Other
Risk Impact:
Low
Systems Affected:
Linux, Mac OS X, Symbian OS, UNIX, Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows CE, Windows NT, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows XP
Tracking Cookie is a detection for pieces of information stored on computers after visiting certain Web sites. Tracking cookies are distributed and retrieved across multiple Web site domains allowing Web sites to monitor visitors' surfing habits. Some cookies can contain personal information or are bound to user profiles.

A Little About Cookies
A cookie is a text file that a Web site can install on your computer. Cookies enable a Web site to tailor pages presented to you by storing information about you in the cookie text file. The Web site can remember you for easy navigation and access during your return visits for products, services, and content. Advertisers may use this information to understand your Web surfing habits. Cookies are only text files and are NOT worms, viruses, or directly malicious, but they may have privacy implications.

Tracking Cookies are a specific type of cookie that is distributed, shared, and read across two or more unrelated Web sites for the purpose of gathering information or potentially to present customized data to you. Not all cookies are tracking cookies. Tracking cookies are not harmful like malware, worms or viruses, but they can be a privacy concern. As an example, if you go to a Web site that hosts online advertising from a third-party vendor, the third-party vendor can place a cookie on your computer. If another Web site also has advertisements from the third-party vendor, then that vendor knows you have visited both Web sites. Are these advertisers directly interested in your specific browsing habits? Most likely not as this information is collected over thousands or millions of users to determine overall trends in Web surfing.

Orphan Cookies
Orphan cookies are cookie files in your Temporary Internet Files folder that do not belong to anything specifically in your browser index file, as well as listings in your browser index file that don’t have an associated cookie. There is nothing to worry about - these cookies are not seen by your browser, they are merely taking up hard drive space. Symantec Norton products use an "Orphan Cleanup" feature to remove these extra cookies.

Are Cookies Dangerous?
Contrary to what some users may think, cookies are NOT inherently malicious or dangerous. If you run a scan and you find a tracking cookie, the tracking cookie does not represent a malware infection. These are low to minimal security issues. We have seen many security companies and free "Spyware Removal Tools" emphasize detection of cookies, calling them Spyware and Trackware and stating that you are "infected", which is most unlikely to be the case. Cookies and the information they store are more related to privacy concerns.

To determine if the privacy concern is an issue for you, you need to decide if the benefits of today’s enhanced Web site customizations outweigh the sensitivity of the information being collected. This is very similar to the power and flexibility of using major search engine technology and giving your frequent shopper card at your local grocery store – each has potential benefits and downsides. A search engine is helpful for quickly and easily finding information, but the search engine companies could potentially know about the types of things you search for and which links you decide to go to.
We have grown accustomed to targeted information being presented to us, but our privacy is what may suffer as advertisers and corporations learn more about our Web surfing habits.

How Do I Avoid Tracking Cookies?
If you are still concerned about cookies, there are a few steps you can take. Certain Web sites may NOT function properly if cookies are removed or deleted.
  • Be selective about which Web sites you visit.
  • Check your browser’s privacy settings. Most browsers have settings to either delete or block cookies from your computer automatically.
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