A cookie is a small text file that is set by a web site and stored on your hard drive. The contents of the file is under the control of the web site and may contain information about you and/or your past and present surfing habits. You supply most of the information that a cookie gets about you. When you fill out a form that asks for your name and email address for example, that information may be stored in a cookie for future use. This is not necessarily a bad thing however. Cookies are most often used to customize your browser or for personalizing content delivery. In other words, if you go to www.yahoo.com and you choose to "Personalize" the page so that it shows your local weather and news, stock quotes, and entertainment, that information is stored in a cookie so that when you go back to the page all of your personalized settings are displayed for you. Cookies are sometimes used to track your browsing habits such as what sites you visited before and what sites you went to after the site that issued the cookie. This is often used for gathering statistics about the popularity of the site, market research and targeted advertising. A Web site can look at the cookie (only the site that issued the cookie can get access to this information) to see where you have been and where you are going so that the site can customize the banner ads that are displayed on your browser. You might notice when you go to a search engine like Yahoo or HotBot and type in a query, the banner ads that appear after you submit the search seem to be relevant to your search.
You should check for security patches on vendor sites to make sure that your software is up to date.
Making Your Browser More Secure
For sites in the Trusted Sites zone, you may also choose to require server certificate verification for all sites included in the zone. However, this is an all or none option. If you are going to include sites that do not require server certificate verification, then do not check off the Require server certification (https:) for all sites in this zone option.
Browser security has come a long way in the last few years. They have gone from being extremely insecure applications to applications that offer customizable security. But as long as there are "hackers" out there, new security holes will be found and exploited. Remember, always practice save surfing!
When you access a web site, your browser saves page images in cache. Cache is used by the browser to store images of pages you have visited. Web browsers do this in order to speed up access. Web browser also maintains a history of sites you have visited. If you do not clear the cache and history files, anyone can view the information you have accessed simply by using the back button on the browser. Browsers have facilities that let you clean the cache and history lists. Netscape History and Cache Cleanup In Netscape, click on Edit and choose Preferences. Choose Navigator from the left frame. You can specify when pages in the history list expire be entering the number of days. You can also clear the history list by clicking on Clear History. Browsers use two types of cache: Memory Cache and Disk Cache. You can clear Memory and Disk cache in order to ensure that no one else who has access to your computer can view information that you have accessed using the browser. To clear cache, click on Edit and choose Preferences. Choose Advance from the left frame and expand the list by clicking on the plus sign. Then click on Cache. To clear cache, click on Clear Memory Cache and Clear Disk Cache. Internet Explorer History and Cache Cleanup On the Tools menu in Internet Explorer, click Internet Options. On the General tab, click Settings. To delete temporary Internet files (cache) click Delete Files. To clear history, click Clear History. To clear Temporary Internet Files, click Delete Files and when the Delete Files window is displayed, click OK.
With the number of computer viruses and worms increasing on a daily basis, it is important that you have a virus-scanning program running on your computer. It is also important to make sure that the program is updated regularly so that it is able to detect new viruses and other malicious code. A few things to keep in mind:
- Be careful of e-mail attachments since many viruses and worms are spread as e-mail attachments. If you are not certain of the contents and source of any attached files, you're better off to just delete the message. Make sure that you update your virus-scanning program regularly. If you don't, you risk getting your computer infected and spreading viruses to colleagues. An out-of-date virus program can give you a false sense of security. If your virus-scanning program has an active monitoring feature, make sure that it is turned on.
- If your computer does become infected, contact your network administrator.
When using the Internet to view and transmit confidential information, make sure that you have a "secure" connection to the site you're visiting. When you are finished, clear the Cache and History files right away.