Security Corner

Sep 19 2010   6:48PM GMT

Disable and Delete Flash Cookies for Good

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

You’ve disabled third-party cookies and locked down your privacy settings. Ever wondered why you are still tracked? You’ve probably got scores of “super cookies,” also known as Local Shared Objects (LSO) or Flash cookies. Maybe you’ve heard about these and used Adobe’s own tools, Adobe Global Storage Settings Panel, to disable and delete them, but they just seem to keep coming back. Suspicious. In Security Now! Episode 266, Steve Gibson talks about the problems he’s noticed:

So I went back over to the Flash configuration. And just using that UI, I disabled these again. I went through the various tabs, noting that there were more of them now than there used to be. And when I went back to the first tab where I turned it off, it was already turned on again. So I’m really annoyed by this. I don’t know, I haven’t tracked down what’s going on. But I’ll just tell people, you think you’ve turned this off, check back the next day and see if it stays off because something is turning it back on.

Enter BetterPrivacy, a safeguard which protects your system from these super cookies:

Better Privacy serves to protect against non-deletable long term cookies, a new generation of ‘Super-Cookie’, which silently conquered the internet. This new cookie generation offers unlimited user tracking to industry and market research. Concerning privacy Flash- and DOM Storage objects are most critical. This addon was made to make users aware of those hidden, never expiring objects and to offer an easy way to get rid of them – since browsers are unable to do that for you.

I installed the add-on just see what was on my system and was greeted with a message on exit–that’s when BetterPrivacy does its work, by default–that it was about to delete 879 LSOs. Wow! That’s a lot of super cookies, but really not surprising considering the number of Flash videos I encounter on the web.

When you install the add-on, a new item appears under the Tools menu: BetterPrivacy. This control panel allows you to configure the add-on to perform according to your preferences. Explore the options and you’ll see what you can do.

This add-on doesn’t replace using Adobe’s tool to disable the cookies in the first place, but in the event Adobe’s shenanigans re-activate the “feature,” this tool will let you know about it right away.

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