Computer Cookies: Are They Good or Bad?

Explaining “Cookies” (the non caloric ones that reside in your computer!)

You can’t talk about all those nasty ‘things’ that can ‘attack’ your computer while you are surfing the Internet, like viruses or spyware, without talking about ‘Cookies’. But what are they and are they really bad for my computer?

Ok, first let’s define the term, and then we’ll explain the good and the bad about it.

Cookie(s):

A small data (text and numbers) file (piece of information) created by a Web server (large computer that stores web sites) that is stored on your computer either temporarily for that session only (the time that you spend on a web site) or permanently on the hard disk (persistent cookie). Cookies provide a way for the Web site that you visit and go back to visit again, to identify users and keep track of their preferences. Amazon and Barnes and Noble online are very creative in the use of their cookies that get generated when you visit.

Here’s an example from my computer from visiting the Disney.com website:

CP null*disneyworld.disney.go.com/1088 1761935360 30785590 403215680 29726670*

Notice that the only thing in that string of text and numbers that you can recognize is the name of the website. The rest of the information is simply a set of numbers that only a computer can understand.

Why are cookies important to you? Well, you would not be able to browse through the Web as you are currently used to if you had cookies restricted on your computer.

The Good “Cookies” (non calorie type)

Cookies are commonly used to “maintain the state” (the current or last-known status) of the session (time that you spend on a site) as a user browses around on the site. For example, if you filled out a form and decided to leave that for a moment to view another page, when you come back to that form, the information that you already filled in would still be there. Without cookies, the site would not know who you were.

On the 2 web sites that I mentioned, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, they both use a combination of cookies and online database to recognize you when you return to the site as well as “remember” your earlier choices and from those choices recommend possible book or music choices for you on your current visit.

Imagine, if you will, walking into a local Barnes and Noble store where a clerk immediately recognizes you, walks up to you as she calls you by name and walks you over to your own table of books and music. You see that they have put all of your favorite kinds of books and musicians on the table, both new and old works, all laid out for your quick viewing pleasure!

And, on the next table, is a sign saying “Other people who bought these items also purchased these items” so that you may find interesting items that you may never have seen but might find interesting. Wouldn’t that make shopping a great experience?

Well, that is exactly what it is like to shop online with a sophisticated shopping web site like Barnes and Noble and Amazon! And it’s only because of cookies remembering who you are that allows this type of service to occur.

The Bad Side of Cookies

Actually, as you have just seen, cookies on your computer are not a bad thing; it’s just that the information that they contain can be quite enticing to unscrupulous people. Quite a bit of personal data may reside in the cookie files in your computer, such as ID and Password information. As a result, this storehouse of private information is sometimes the object of attack, which is what happens with some types of spyware.

The default (Default refers to a value automatically assigned to a computer program or device), settings in your Web browser typically allow “first-party” cookies that do not contain any personal information, but not “third-party” cookies.

First-party cookies are ones that are created by the Web site you are visiting. Third-party cookies are created by a Web site other than the one you are currently visiting; for example, by a third-party advertiser on that site (pop-up or banner). The purpose of such cookies is usually to track your surfing habits, which is why third-party cookies are considered an invasion of privacy and riskier than first-party cookies. In some instances cookies are used to consolidate and track user behavior across different sites, which provide marketers with private information about you without your knowledge. These are what are referred to as Tracking Cookies.

Aha, now we’re getting somewhere!

Because, a Tracking Cookie is a somewhat new term for a cookie that has been design by the above mentioned ‘unscrupulous’ people that do business on the Web. It is part of the unfortunate phenomenon known as Spyware! But, that’s a topic for another whole article!

5 Tips To Choose The Right Computer Repair Service

We all have problems with our computers from time to time. If your computer is down, you can do three things. You can go online and read forums to look for a solution. You can talk to a support engine online. Or you can give a call to a local computer repair shop for assistance. If you are a new user and don’t have any computer knowledge, opening your computer case may not be a good idea. What you should do is hire the services of a computer repair service. Given below are a few tips that can help you look for the right provider in your area.

Check Out The Reviews

While looking for a local service provider, make sure you read reviews on them online. You can check out Yelp, BBB or Google, for instance. Checking out reviews will give a great idea about different providers.

Alternatively, you can ask family, co-workers, friends or other pros about the repair services they used in the past. As a matter of fact, word-of-mouth is still one of the most reliable methods of looking for trusted professionals in any field.

On-Site Support

Typically, the technician may also come to your place to diagnose the problem with your computer. This can save you a lot of hassle as you won’t have to take your computer to the computer shop. However, keep in mind that the technician may charge a bit extra for the additional service. But this can be a good option if you have a very busy schedule.

Service Cost

It’s better that you compare different shops and get quotes as you create a short list of candidates. Make sure you stay away from shops that ask for upfront or that charge by the hour.

Today, most computer repair shops charge based on the type of problem you have with your machine. And these rates are fixed.

Warranty

It’s good if you look for a repair service that won’t charge you anything if your problem is not solved. In other words, if they can’t fix your computer, you won’t have to pay a dime. Usually, honest technicians are straightforward and won’t charge you if your computer needs to be replaced, for instance. Don’t forget to ask for any warranty on the labor and parts.

Experience

This is the most important point. You don’t want to hire any computer repair technician. You only want to hire one that has a lot of experience under their belt. An inexperienced technician may end up damaging your computer further, which is something you don’t want to experience.

Therefore, it’s worth the time to find out if the repair service is licensed and experienced. You want to work with a qualified pro.

Long story short, if your computer is out of order, we suggest that you look for a trustworthy repair technician to get your machine fixed. It’s not a good idea to open the case yourself in an attempt to diagnose the problem yourself if you are a novice. Hiring a pro is a safer choice.

Geeks on Site Warn Computer Users About Internet Fraud

Even the savvy consumer can be scammed. There are certain situations in which we may be more vulnerable to a scammer’s ploy. According to Scambusters, “In the wake of the earthquakes in Chile and Haiti, we wanted to remind you that whenever there is a major natural or other disaster, scammers begin sending out charity relief scams and other scams almost immediately.”

The 2009 Internet Crime Report states the reported losses from online fraud reached nearly $560 million in 2009. The most popular types of scam included attempted identity theft using the FBI’s name.

In the age of new technology, where an increasing amount of transactions happen in cyberspace, consumers need to remain a step ahead of the scammers. So how does one protect oneself from being deceived?

Geeks On Site has compiled a list of precautions every computer user should familiarize themselves with:

  1. Understand how scam artists operate
  2. Manage and protect your personal data
  3. Never open attachments from unknown senders
  4. Be very cautious when performing transactions online
  5. Check your bank statements regularly for unauthorized transactions
  6. Do not download unknown software or applications
  7. Check store/seller’s reviews if purchasing items online
  8. Change your passwords regularly

Geeks On Site is eager to share tips to protect yourself from various scams that are common on the Internet. Some more popular scams are as follows:

– Identity theft (phishing) and credit card fraud (fake purchases): Do not reply to any e-mails requesting your bank account/credit card information. Legitimate banks and credit card companies will not request such confidential information via e-mail. If in doubt, contact your bank/credit card company.

– Charity relief (natural disasters): Do not reply or send any credit card information to unsolicited e-mails requesting donations. Be aware that these scammers will use similar names to the real organization’s name, if this is the case, look them up on the phonebook or do some research first. It is best to donate to a well-known relief organization instead.

– Work from home (upfront investment required): Most of these programs will request you to pay for a package that will provide you with the information “you need” in order to make the big bucks. Be wary of these companies and do your research before getting involved with them.

– Spam (viruses, pop ups): Make sure the software, applications and files you download from the internet come from trustworthy sources. Aside from the risk of obtaining a virus and corrupting all your files, some malicious files can install spyware, in which the authors are able to collect any information you enter into your computer, such as credit card numbers, without your consent. Unknown software might also install adware, in which the user’s browsing preferences are tracked in order to display unwanted advertisement via banners and pop-ups.

– E-mail scams (fake lottery and prizes): You might receive an e-mail stating that you won a lottery or that you were “selected randomly” for a prize. They will request a fee to be paid upfront in order to get the prize, and of course, you will not see any money.

– Online purchase fraud (eBay): Be aware that on sites like eBay, you are dealing with suppliers and individuals. Avoid ending up with a product that is not exactly what you expected, or having to pay for merchandise that did not arrive. Before you purchase anything, check the sellers’ ratings and read the buyers’ reviews. Make sure you read the item description thoroughly and ask any questions before you commit to buying an item, as in some cases returns are not accepted. If the transaction does not get resolved after further negotiation with the seller, you can always file a dispute; but it might take a while to get your money back.

Finally, computer users are encouraged to report suspicious activity. One highly regarded resource to learn more about Internet scams is the website of the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov. And, all victims of online scams are encouraged to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov.

Geeks On Site has qualified technicians who will help their customers prevent becoming the victim of an Internet scam by installing excellent firewall hardware or software. They also recommend users protect their computers with anti-virus, spyware and spam software.