image-computer-cookieA computer cookie is a message given to a web browser by a web server.  The message is stored in a text file.  The message is then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server.

The main purpose of cookies is to identify users and possibly prepare customized web pages for them. When you enter a website using cookies, you may be asked to fill out a form with information about yourself.  This information is packaged into a cookie and sent to your Web browser which stores it for later use.  The next time you access this website, your browser will send the cookie to the web server, so that a custom web page will be displayed (e.g., instead of a generic welcome page, you might see a page with your name on it).

Cookies do not act maliciously on computer systems.  They are merely text files that can be deleted at any time. Cookies cannot be used to spread viruses or access your hard drive.  Cookies will only contain information that you freely provide to a website; however, in this way they do promote a risk to your privacy.

Some food for thought…

If you have problems accessing a website, there may be corrupt cookies on your computer that may need to be deleted. Similarly, some cookies might need to be enabled to access some websites.