Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Reader Asks About “Infections” (Actually, “Cookies”)

A reader wrote in with a interesting question..

Q:Hi,

I’ve started reading your blog/site and found some very helpful information!  Thanks for helping the rest of us who aren’t so tech savvy.

I use Panda Cloud (free version) and Super Anti-Spyware (free version) on my netbook.  Yesterday I noticed my netbook was getting sluggish, responding slowly.  Eventually it locked up and displayed the “blue screen of death”.  At that point I shut it down (via power button) and restarted it to run scans. 

After updating SAS and running the full scan, it said all was clear.  I also ran the full scan on Panda Cloud and it didn’t find anything either.  Finally I ran the Panda ActiveScan 2.0 (as you recommend) and it found three cookies.  Normally I just click “Disinfect” and go on my merry way, but these cookies were described as “Not disinfectable”.  From the info on the ActiveScan site, I understand these cookies don’t do any damage on their own but can be used or activated by someone/something else at a later time.

What do I do now??? Are they just trying to scare me into buying their software?  Is it really something I should worry about?  Why didn’t Panda Cloud catch it?  Is there something else I need to add to my security defences?
Thanks,
C.”

A: C,
Cookies are (generally) “harmless”, if not a convenience, and many anti-malware scanners ignore them to a degree (while others make a huge issue about them as so called low-grade “infections”, and proudly trumpet their removal).

The biggest concern about web “cookies” is they can be (um.. are) used to track where we go on the Internet — a privacy issue. (This is for the most part done for the purposes of marketing and advertising.)

As we consumers became better at blocking/removing/saying “no” to cookies, the advertisers and marketers and “profile builders” had to develop less easy to remove cookies, if they wanted to keep being able to do/sell “targeted marketing”.. such as “Flash cookies” (LSO’s)… which are probably what ActiveScan is showing.

Specifically, no, I would not buy a “paid version” of an antivirus just to be able to remove these “Flash cookies” (and other hard-to-remove types) and I think your choices of protection for your netbook are fine. What I would look to do is harden my browser against accepting these kinds of cookies.

I use the TACO and BetterPrivacy “add-ons” on my Firefox browser for that. If you don’t use Firefox, you’ll have to dig into the settings box at Macromedia’s Flash Player Help page, which lets you change settings for the Flash Player on your system. To learn more, please see, Flash Cookies Devouring Your Privacy.

.. If SAS, Panda Cloud AV and ActiveScan are showing you as basically free from “viruses”, and there was no other “strange behavior”, I am afraid you may have to look elsewhere for the cause of the slowdown and Blue Screen of Death. (Also, you might try running MalwareBytes.) If it continues to crash, you may want to have a pro look things over.. such as myself (shameless plug).

Today’s quote:Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” ~ Marcus Aurelius

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.


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January 10, 2012 - Posted by | advice, computers, security | , , , ,

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