Viruses & Spyware Don’t Taste Like Cookies

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When I first started working with computers a little over ten years ago I had never heard about viruses. I could safely browse the internet without worrying about what might pop-up, or what the next site I visit may do to my computer.

Today, viruses and spyware have made many internet users skeptical of websites that add something to their computer. While it’s important to be aware of these additions, user fears can make tracking site customer behavior much more difficult. Webmasters want to track as much information about their customers’ habits as possible without invading privacy. This can be done with the use of HTTP cookies.

To date, setting user cookies is the most search engine friendly method for tracking user behavior without treading all over privacy. Cookies are neither a virus or spyware; they are simple pieces of data that are harmless to a user’s computer system. However, public fears of computer viruses and spyware has led to misconceptions about cookies. As with anything, a little education can go a long way.

Most internet users today still don’t realize the importance of using antivirus software or that it needs to be updated. In a past job, I spent at least 75% of my time removing spyware from my customers’ computers. It started with annoying pop-up ads seemingly out of nowhere. Then it kept their computer from booting, made it run slow, or blocked them altogether from getting on the Internet. When they forked out cash to have their system cleaned up, they always acknowledged the fact that they should have had antivirus software installed.

Here’s where the self-education comes in handy. Microsoft provides ongoing info about Windows security updates and PC Magazine offers comprehensive antivirus software reviews. So before you start deleting everything in your Temporary Internet Files folder, find a source you can trust for information about protecting yourself online.

I don’t know of any, but maybe a listing of web sites known for producing spyware would also be helpful. Of course a third party would need to verify before a site was added to the list. But this could help remove the offending sites from search engine indexes, in effect making the sites harder to find.

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