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Users unleash cookie monsters

Netizens wary of cookies and other electronic markers can now toss cookies and their kin from their browsers with special software.

CNET News staff
2 min read
Netizens wary of Web sites reaching into their hard drives to plant cookies and other electronic markers can now toss cookies and their kin from both Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers with special software.

NSClean and IEClean, available from Axxis Corporation, can erase cookies--files that live locally on users' PCs that allow sites to store information.

The products, developed by Kevin McAleavey, will also allow users to erase other information stored on their hard drives while cruising the Net, including the news database, bookmarks, history, user ID, and cache. Users can specify what data is deleted.

Another product released by Pretty Good Privacy last week, called PGPcookie.cutter, works as a browser plug-in and also allows users to delete cookies.

Both products are targeted at security-conscious surfers. Cookies have come under fire from privacy experts because they are typically used to track a surfer's movement through a site. Later versions of browsers allow users to choose whether to accept a cookie, but to do that, the user has to continually click on a pop-up window.

On the flip side, cookies are the mechanisms that allow Web sites to customize the site to user preferences.

According to Axxis, its products can keep anyone with access to your computer from finding out where you've been and what you've been doing there.

McAleavey developed NSClean after a friend was reprimanded for visiting sites that were not relevant to work after his boss looked at the browser's URL file, Axxis said.

McAleavey then helped his friend out by manually erasing the browser's historical information, something that anyone with a little knowledge can do. Soon after, other friends were asking McAleavey to do the same thing, so he developed the program to automate the process, the company added.

"Anyone with an elementary knowledge of computers can look at your [browser] files and see where you've been on the Net," McAleavey said.

The products also allow users to use an alias for an identity in place of a user ID.