Can computer cookies cause problems?

We usually hear about cookies, in mesajes like “this site uses cookies” or similar; even sites hosted in Europe have the responsibility to inform users that they use cookies thanks to a law passed on 2009 that requires websites to inform and get the approval from users to use cookies in webpages. Now, all the attention and regulations about cookies made me wonder, can computer cookies cause problems? I searched about it and this is what I found.

Cookies are small bits of information or data in the form of text files that computers store in the user`s equipment when they visit websites. This bits of information track users and make possible some specific features; for example they could enable some functionalities in the webpage and can also be used to track the activities of users.

So, cookies are neccesary for the correct performance of the web and could be a source of concern as regards privacy and security.

Now, the cookies are not bad per se; this little drops of information can´t hold viruses, they can`t access hard drives, can´t get into your personal information, they can´t read your e-mail address, and can´t control functions of your machine.

However, it doesn´t mean that they can´t be used to do bad things, they can and they certainly are.

Kinds of cookies

The two basic categories of cookies are first-party (those that are part of the websites you visited in your browser) and third-party or tracking cookies (those generated from a javascript included in the site usually from third-party advertising sites).

There are also Session cookies, which are temporary and remain in memory untill you close the brower and persistent cookies, those that remain more time and are stored even if the browser is closed and come back when the user visits the site again or another site with a resource supplied by the original supplier of the cookie.

These last pose a greater risk because they track the activity of the user when visiting various sites and at different times.

 There are several attacks that can be perfomed using cookies, like cookie fraud, cookie poisoning, session fixation, cross site scripting, cross site request forgery attack, cookie tossing attack; and what all of them do is to either adulterate the identity of a valid user or use this identity to do something bad.

 And among the problems caused by the malignant use of cookies we have:

  • Identity theft
  • Obtaining unauthorized information
  • Data modification
  • Stealing of sessions

So the answer to the question posed at the beginning of the article is, no, cookies by themselves cannot cause problems in computers, but the manipulation of cookies can wreak havock in computers and websites.

Here you can see an example of cookie poisoning:

That means, for you as a user, that you need to take some precautionary measures to prevent any attack on your information through cookies.

Now, what can you do to prevent the use of cookies from causing problems to you?

Yo should know that antiviruses are uselees against cookies because these are simply little bits of information and no executable files and are therefore undetectable by antivirus software.

However there are at least two things that you can do against malicious use of cookies; first make sure your browser is updated, that will prevent the use of security holes that are corrected with updates and, second, do not visit sites of questionabe nature when you receive a warning from your browser.

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Review the privacy and security settings of your browser. Define an strong cookie policy without making the browser´s work too difficult .

Use incognito browsing mode, because in this mode the browser will not use persistent cookies, and the moment you close the browser, all cookies will be deleted. Every time you use incognito mode it is as if you are visiting the site for the first time.

Also enable your browser´s security settings to let you see all the cookies stored in your browser and delete them all if so wish to do so.

Here we can see some cookies strored in Google Chrome:

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Configuring browsers for cookies control

Configuring browsers for cookies control

Let´s review how to configure cookie policy in 4 browsers:


You can view the instructions for managing cookies for Google Chrome here:

Review all the options carefully and choose those you prefer. Some points to remember are: 

  • Chose the option “Keep local data only until you quit your browser” to delete all cookies once you exit your browser.
  • Chose “Block sites from setting any data” to disable all cookies.
  • Select “Block third-party cookies and site data” if you don´t want to permit third-party cookies.


For a complete description on how to configure cookie policy in Firefox visit:

Some points to remember are:

To disable accepting cookies altogether deselect the default option. 

As regards third party cookies, you will find the options to accept these cookies only from sites that were visited before, or block the cookies completely.

if you want to set an special policy for specific websites, select the Exceptions button.

You have the option to keep cookies untill expiration date or erase them when the browser is closed in the “Keep until” menu.


You can review the instructions for managing cookies on Edge browser here:

The options you can find here are:

  • Don’t block cookies (default)
  • Block all cookies
  • Block only third-party cookies.

Chose the option that you want for your browser.


The instructions for deleting cookies in the recent versions of Internet Explorer are here:

You can follow the same rules suggested  for previous browsers.

Don´t  forget to keep all browsers updated and to set the right policy for managing cookies, also delete previous cookies, this will avoid any problems or attacks to your information.

Following this suggestions you will avoid cookies from causing problems to tour computer

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Can computer cookies cause problems?

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