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  1. #1
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    TOP STORY

    Eliminate Flash-spawned 'zombie' cookies


    By Woody Leonhard

    Way back in a 2008 column, I spotlighted one of the most insidious and least-known features on the Internet: Adobe Flash cookies that were not subject to the usual cookie rules.

    Almost two years later, these special Flash cookies are still living in our PCs, and enterprising privacy-busters now use them to create zombie cookies — regular cookies that come back from the dead.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/2010/08/05/02 (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by revia; 2011-01-19 at 15:37.

  2. #2
    Lounge VIP bobprimak's Avatar
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    In addition to Flash Player, other Rich Internet Applications (RIAs), most notably Microsoft's Silverlight, also set LSOs in various non-browser areas of your computer. That's the bad news. The good news is that CCleaner will clean these Super Cookies if you check off the options to do so. Using Secure deletion (overwriting deleted data) may also help prevent Zombie Cookies from reappearing. And many antispyware programs, including Super Antispyware, will detect and remove LSOs. In Firefox, it is also wise to clean out DOM Cookies, which some cleaners can also do. And there is a Firefox Extension to turn off Google Analytics, also a rich source for data mining by advertisers. I don't know whether Google Chrome can be tricked out to block Google Analytics, but I would like to be able to opt out in Chrome, which I use in my new 64-bit Windows 7 Toshiba Satellite laptop.
    -- Bob Primak --

  3. #3
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    Flash cookies? Just go here to view and delete 'em:
    http://www.macromedia.com/support/do...manager07.html

  4. #4
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    @Betona -

    Yep, that's the site I talked about two years ago. It hasn't changed much. For starters, it's so confusing that the instructions start out "Note: The Settings Manager that you see above is not an image; it is the actual Settings Manager."

    There's still no way to manipulate, control or delete LSOs using an Adobe-supplied program on your computer, or using your browser. Instead, you need a Firefox add-in, or CCleaner.
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  5. #5
    2 Star Lounger bmeacham's Avatar
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    Is there any way to remove them using Opera? Opera is my preferred browser, for speed and security reasons.
    Bill Meacham
    bmeacham98 AT yahoo.com

  6. #6
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    @bmeacham -

    You can't remove them directly using Opera, but you can go to the web site mentioned above and get rid of them.

    Details are in my article from two years ago.
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  7. #7
    New Lounger
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    Interesting -- I read the article, downloaded and ran the "Flash Cookies Cleaner" (found 62 *.sol and *.com files!). I then clicked on the humorous video link from your site -- ran FCC again -- and 5 more files were found (which I deleted)!

    Turned Cookies off in IE -- visited that video again -- ran FCC -- and again 5 files found to delete!

    I lowered cookies to moderate-high. I also have CCleaner and ran it AFTER visiting the same video link -- but to no effect on the *.sol files (FCC still found 5).

    Pernicious little suckers, aren't they?

    BTW -- I've appreciated your work. Pray you have a Happy Retirement/Redirection in life!

    Mike

  8. #8
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    @Mike -

    You're very kind, but Brian's retiring. I'm still solidly poised at my keyboard, nose to the grindstone.

    They are pernicious little suckers. I ran the Adobe tool on my main machine and found that I have TONS of Flash cookies, from the likes of:

    msn.com
    paypalobjects.com
    shoutcast.com
    cnet.com
    skype.com
    cbs.com
    merriam-webster.com
    wolframalpha.com
    zdnet.com
    americastestkitchen.com
    acrobat.com
    tweetdeck.com
    abcnews.com
    msads.com
    wsj.net
    hbo.com
    forbes.com
    bbc.co.uk
    washingtonpost.com
    hulu.com
    twitter.com
    ninemsn.co.au
    turner.com
    clearspring.com
    epson.com
    google.com
    ebaystatic.com
    paypal.com
    flickr.com
    istartedsomething.com
    images-amazon.com

    And many others. Of course, not all of those are going to spawn zombie cookies - but I have to wonder how many will.

    One reader sent email to me with details about CCleaner that astound me - he's having trouble getting rid of the pests, too, and CCleaner apparently isn't doing the job. Hope to get him to join in here momentarily.
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  9. #9
    New Lounger
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    I've been using CCleaner for years and I didn't recall seeing any specific settings for clearing out LSOs. On the CCleaner dashboard, when I go to Cleaner > Applications tab, by default there is a check mark for Multimedia > Adobe Flash Player (as well as Windows Media Player.) After running CCleaner I can go back into the Adobe Settings Manager and none of the LSOs appear to have been deleted. So I went to the CCleaner forums and found this thread:

    http://forum.piriform.com/index.php?...1&#entry174431

    Towards the bottom one of the moderators (DennisD) offers a solution for eliminating LSOs by using the CCleaner "Include" routine. You have to add the specific folders containing the LSOs to the cleaning routine and CCleaner will then (supposedly) remove the Flash cookies. I would have thought that CCleaner would include them automatically without the user having to manually add the folder(s). And the moderator's instructions apply to XP because that's what the original question pertained to. I have no idea if there are any other folders involved that the moderator might have missed. So for that reason I decided to bookmark Adobe Settings Manager and run it whenever I shut down my computer.

  10. #10
    New Lounger
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    From time to time I reguraly use this;

    http://www.macromedia.com/support/do...manager02.html

    / Oskarius

  11. #11
    New Lounger
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    TOPIC -- Getting CCLeaner removing Flash-spawned 'zombie cookies' from Vista...

    First, thanks for the link to the Piriform users input.

    I found that FlashCookieCleaner also removed a number of .com files which I suspect are just as (if not more) dangerous than the *.so files

    Using what the Piriform users group said about WinXP, I found that in Vista you'd duplicate the equivalent effect to CCleaner by adding the below line (replace USER NAME with your own) under CCleaner's "Options/Include" menu. CCleaner quickly removed the offending .sol file I had in that directory.

    At "Directory" input, browse to:
    C:\Documents and Settings\USER NAME\AppData\Roaming\Macromedia\Flash Player\macromedia.com\support\flashplayer\sys

    At "File Names" add
    *.sol;*.com

    Tried it out after running Youtube. It added another settings.sol file to that directory AND under that directory the following sub-directory:

    #s.ytimng.com

    ...under which ANOTHER settings.sol file was placed.

    Ran CCleaner again. THIS time it not only cleaned the *.sol and *.com files in the location mentioned above, but deleted the sys directory AND found and deleted another *.sol file under the following directories of (note differences!):

    C:\Documents and Settings\USER NAME\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\#Shared Objects\7 LETTERS AND NUMBERS HERE\s.ytiming.com\videostats.sol

    and

    C:\Documents and Settings\USER NAME\Application Data\Macromedia\Flash Player\macromedia.com\support\flashplayer\sys\#s.y timng.com\settings.sol

    I like how CCleaner picked those up after only entering the initial directory location and file extensions (*.sol;*.com)

    This still begs the question -- what in the heck is the average computer user going to do to protect themselves from stuff like this??? I'm guessing at least 95% of computers are susceptible to this stuff -- and it won't take much for Adobe and/or some hacker to figure out a way to subvert the cleanup techniques submitted here and elsewhere! I realize Adobe has to make some money someway from the free programs they offer -- but they are opening users to potentially disasterous privacy violations -- AND I think they are opening themselves to liability issues for having done so!

    Mike

  12. #12
    5 Star Lounger
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    Under Google Analytics Firefox lists 24 add-ons, which seem to be intended for use my advertisers to obtain more info from their cookies.

    The main exception seems to be Google Analytics Internal traffic Excluder, but the blurb only refers to blocking 'internal traffic' - whatever that might be. Is this what Bob primark is refrring to?

  13. #13
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    I tried the Flash Cookie Cleaner 1.2 application, and it found a load of stuff! The weird thing about it though is that it runs off the Internet and doesn't install as an application on your hard drive. I did find I could Save it to my Downloads folder and then run it from there. Interestingly enough my UAC did not ask me whether I wanted to run this or not but Norton Internet Security 2010 did say the file was safe.

  14. #14
    3 Star Lounger Woody's Avatar
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    @Mike -

    Thanks. Curiouser and curiouser....
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

  15. #15
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    @Mike or any other kind soul:

    Can anyone transpose the 2 adds to CCleaner that were shown for Vista so that they work in
    W7? My understanding is that there is no AppData folder in W7.

    Thanks,
    Dick

    Edit:
    Sorry: Answered my own question. Appdata is hidden in W7, and exists as a junction
    point for backward compatability.

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