Cookies and Viruses

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  What Are The Chances of Catching a Virus From a Cookie?

cookieA normal text based cookie cannot be of any danger to your computer or spread any viruses. Whether or not other cookies can be dangerous or spread viruses has to do with whether or not a file is "executable," meaning if it's a program rather than data. UNIX files, for instance, have some combination of the properties "readable," "writable" and "executable." The executable property is necessary to enable a program in a file to do something. If a cookie is not stored in an executable format for that platform, it cannot do something hostile.

Most cookies are not executable, and I have not come across one. In general Cookies are stored as text files and cannot be of danger or pass on viruses. Even if a cookie is executable it cannot automatically spread on a virus unless you execute it. But of course with recent bugs in Internet Explorer 3.0, it will let a site run a application. In theory, if a executable cookie was set with malicious contents, then it is possible that IE3.0 could execute it, then it could affect your computer with a virus.

The maximum contents of a cookie is 4Kb, and the line to delete the contents of a hard-disk is only 18 bytes long, so obviously the virus could do some damage even though it could not be a complete Trojan horse. Please note this is only a theory and I have never seen a cookie that was able to spread a virus, this would be virtually impossible, and would take a great deal of work. This theory is trivial compared to some other very real loopholes in the net. A loophole in ActiveX was demonstrated, and was able to access the underlying file system. There has also been some security problems uncovered in Java.

Basically cookies cannot harm your computer. The general controversy is not what cookies can do to your computer, but what information they can store, and what they can pass on to servers, there is currently a new proposal to limit the features of the cookie protocol, which would give people a greater control over what cookies they can accept and from where.

More information on virus protection software at - Software to keep your data secure


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