The other day, I went into the local QuickTrip for a quick cup of coffee and I noticed this half eaten cookie, marked down 30% and several questions came to mind. How could they sell this cookie? Who would buy it? Would one eat it after buying it?
Computers also have cookies and they represent small files which are stored on your system. During the early days of dial-up modems and older browsers, cookies and temporary internet files helped with the load time while delivering a Web experience that was tailored for the user. So, if you would frequent a site that required some form of authentication (i.e.: bank site), the Web server would look for these cookies on your machine and deliver the appropriate page, based on your settings.
So, cookies are created when a Web page is loaded, unless the functionality is disabled in your browser settings.
By nature, cookies are NOT viruses as they are encoded in a plain text format and they cannot be executed. Unlike traditional computer viruses, the do not have the means to replicate and spread to other networks or systems. Given that, they are not an immediate threat to your system, unlike our half-eaten cookie at QuikTrip.
However, cookies can be used for malicious purposes as they contain user information as well as browsing history and preferences. As a result, they fall into the realm of spyware so I would recommend deleting your cookies by clicking on your Internet preferences and delete your session history.
Follow these links for steps using the most common browsers:
Internet Explorer: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/278835