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internet-networking in Internet & Networking Channel,
Written by: Miguel Esquirol on Sep 6 2011, 3:47pm

MAXA Cookie Manager Review

We have talked many times about what a cookie is. Originally they were created to surf the internet easier by eliminating the need to type your password every time, or to identify yourself on a series of services from the same company (like Google). Basically your computer and the server you are connected to are not in constant communication. Once you have the page you requested from the server, the communication is over. Cookies were created to teach servers that several requests can come from the same browser, thus making it easy to send and receive information. Most of today’s sites won't actually work if they don't have the capability to store a cookie on your computer.

The usual cookies you have in your computer save some information about you, your server and session, and it normally stores up to 4 KB of data. But new cookies, called super-cookies, can store up to 100 KB of information and are much more difficult to delete. Services like Flash and Silverlight, which can be used in different browsers, store single cookies in your computer

Cookies can also be used for malicious (or sometimes interesting) purposes, like marketing studies and web sniffing. A marketing company can study your internet routine, your interests and track your IP and location. Cookies can be used to know where have you been and what sites you have used, and even when you performed a search online.

There are many services to clean your computer from unwanted cookies. Every browser can do this, although it won't touch flash cookies. Macromedia has its own Setting Panel from where you can delete Flash cookies and services like Norton Internet Security 2011 and even CCleaner will clean your computer although you have to change some settings.

MAXA Cookie Manager

MAXA cookie is a program designed specificity for cookies. If there are other services that perform a similar job, normally they will bundle it with other capabilities. Focusing just on cookies lets you understand and configure how you computer handles cookies. The program works only for Windows, and its free version can delete most cookies, excluding browser independent and special browser cookies.

Characteristics

Not all cookies are bad and that is important to know. It’s also something that MAXA Cookie Manager understands well. When you install the program, it will first show you some popular services . You have to select the programs you use, so they will be added to the White List. These are the pages that your computer will accept cookies from. Don’t worry about whether you miss any, you can change and add new sites later.

The program also recognizes seven popular browsers (including Flock and K-Meleon beyond the most popular ones). It also recognizes cookies created by Flash, Silverlight and Skype.

Once the program is up and running, it will scan all the cookies in your system and flag them according to a schema

  • Red: potentially dangerous, or Seb Bugs.
  • Yellow: Cookies with long expiration time that may store large amounts of information
  • Green: Less problematic
  • White: Those in your white list.

You can delete cookies, evaluate them and even study them. The program has a database with many cookie behaviours that you can access from Cookie Treatment.

The program keeps tracking new cookies and informing you when a dangerous one has entered your system. You can decide to block the domains or add it as a white list. Finally, the program gives you the option to clean your history from all of your browsers at the same time.

What is good

The program is pretty thorough and found most of the cookies, even signalling some that other programs don't consider dangerous. The main interface is simple enough and if you white list all of your usual sites it won't require much work to keep it running.

The program can be easily updated to have the latest definition of cookies, and it recognizes some cookies that other problems don't even know. Using this program I discovered Sliverlight and Skype cookies for the first time.

The site also has two interesting applications you can try online. The first one is a test of the service creating different kinds of cookies on your system. The program will recognize the cookies and help you delete them. MAXA tools also brings you a Privacy Test that shows you all that your browser is letting people see online. Including your location, among others.

What is bad

The programs inner workings are really good, but I can't say the same about how it looks:

  • The UI is a little confusing and cluttered with a lot of options not clearly explained. I played with it for a little and after a while I found it simple to use. Admittedly, it can be a little scary for new users.
  • The audio warnings are ugly and in general not useful. You'll hear chains and doors when you click on different actions, but you can fortunately deactivate the alerts.
  • The explanations and messages aren't completely clear, and some of the text could use a re-write.
  • There are icons that are not clear, but you can click or read the alt-text to guess what they do.

Conclusions

After using Maxa Cookie Manager I'm a little surprised at all the cookies stored in my computer. It’s almost scary to see cookies from sites I visited a long time ago and from marketing agencies that somehow made their way onto my hard drive. I don't know what the do or what they are doing with my information, and what exactly they know about me. The program not only works to clean your computer, but to make you realize the inner working of cookies, marketing campaigns, scams and privacy violations. The program works really nice, although I would like to see a new UI closer to today's software and style.

About the Author

Miguel Esquirol

Montreal, Quebec, CA

1041 contributions

Writers, blogger and journalist interested in different topics from literature to computers.