Rise of the LSO, AKA the “Super Cookie”

Rise of the LSO, AKA the “Super Cookie”

Since the dawn of the first web browsers dragging themselves from the sea to the land and gasping air for the first time (or something like that), there has been someone who wanted to track what’s happening in the browser. Whether it’s for remembering settings, keeping items in a shopping cart, or aiding in online marketing, the ubiquitous browser cookie has been a staple of the Internet since the early days of the Mosaic browser.

Today, however, there has been an evolution in the browser cookie life cycle, and it’s known as the LSO (Local Shared Object, AKA a “Flash cookie”). It’s not called the Super Cookie because it can leap buildings in a single bound, but rather because, like the Man of Steel, super cookies are pretty darn close to impervious when normal humans like you or I attempt to get rid of them.

What’s the difference between a browser cookie and a super cookie?

The super cookie is both scary and fascinating. Unlike its cousin the browser cookie, the super cookie is a Flash-based cookie that is stored in a different location on a computer than a browser cookie, can be much larger than the 4K allotted the browser cookie, and is much more difficult to uninstall (or even find on your PC) than the cookies you’re used to dealing with. In short, it’s a nightmare to deal with and opens up all kinds of privacy concerns.

What can I do about the super cookie?

Now, whether you want to keep or kill the super cookie is up to you. Like the browser cookie, a super cookie is only as evil as its creator, and most developers will likely use the LSO to make things like tracking general customer information easier vs. attempting to waylay your privacy and sell your data to the highest bidder. However, there are enough differences between browser cookies and Flash super cookies that it’s kind of a “Wild West” situation right now in the Land of Cookies.

If you’re afraid of someone using super cookies for evil (and lets face it, that’s a possibility), there are several ways to suppress or remove the LSO super cookie:

  • Manual deletion:

    The most tech savvy method to remove the super cookie, manual deletion is probably best suited for the technically minded. A super cookie is usually found in the “Flash Player” directory on your computer, but can be stored elsewhere. Use the search tool on your PC an look for the *.sol file extension.

  • Better Privacy (Firefox addon):

    If you use Firefox you can add the Better Privacy plugin to your install and let the addon work its magic on your LSOs.

  • Disable/remove Flash:

    Not a fan of Flash in the first place? Don’t care about certain videos or online games? If so, just disable or full-on remove the Flash player from your computer. If it works for iPhone users, it might work for you, too.

  • Visit Adobe:

    Adobe has a tool that you can use to update your settings quickly and easily. Just go to http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager03.html and set the “Global Storage Settings” to “Zero”. This will prevent new flash cookies from being put on your computer, but if you have any right now you’ll still have to remove them as described above.

As you can see, updating, removing, or changing the behavior of Flash super cookies is kind of a pain right now. But like always, we have to roll with the punches, right? Now that you know about the LSO, check them out every now and again and see if you want to keep them around or not.

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