Are cookies safe? Yes!
There is a widespread rumor that cookies are a security hazard. Therefore some people have disabled cookies, or configured their browser to warn them when the web page being viewed requests saving a cookie (see below).
Cookies "cannot be used to 'steal' information about you or your computer system". They can only be used to "store information that you have provided at some point" for use by a particular site [emphasis ours; from the W3C Consortium - the standards forming body for the World Wide Web].
What websites know about you (regardless!).
Whenever you visit a web site, it has access to the following
information regardless of whether cookies are enabled
Are cookies for everyone?
Why would anyone want to disable cookies? "One of the less admirable uses of cookies, and the one that is causing all the controversy, is its use as a device for tracking the browsing and buying habits of individual web users." When a group of sites use a common marketing service, your browsing and buying habits can be pooled into a central database. The advertisements you see popping up on many sites may come from a central marketing service, and along with the ads may come cookies. "This information is also in the server's log files and so the use of a cookie here does not increase a server's ability to track you, it just makes it easier." [Quotes and information from the DOE/CIAC Bulletin cited above.]
Disallowing cookies will prevent Protein Explorer from working. Approving every cookie will make using the Protein Explorer, and many other web sites, unacceptably cumbersome.
The above methods intercept cookies from all sites, equally. A better method is to use a program that can be set to allow cookie access to selected websites that you trust. Many of these can be found at the software page on Cookie Central's website.
One useful cookie-control shareware utility is called Cookie Pal from Kookaburra Software. With this tool, you can configure your browser to allow selected websites that you trust to set cookies. Cookie Pal is shareware that costs $15. You can try it free for 30 days.
Cookie-leaking bug in old versions of Netscape.
If you are using Netscape 4.7 or later, you don't have to worry about this. (The current version of Netscape Communicator is 4.8. Later versions of Netscape [Mozilla, 6, 7] don't work with Protein Explorer.) There is a bug in older versions of Netscape: "A malicious hacker/site operator could also see cookie information as well as directory names and filenames by writing a special program.... The Injection bug affects Navigator 3.x and Netscape Communicator 4.0 to 4.07 as well as the two prerelease beta versions of Communicator 4.5 for all platforms. The bug was fixed in Netscape Communicator 4.5 and later versions [From Netscape Communications' Security Pages] We suggest that you upgrade to the latest version of Communicator 4.X to protect yourselves from this vulnerability. We provide instructions on how to find and download Netscape 4.8x.