Facebook teams up with security vendors, offers free antivirus software

Facebook has teamed up with five security vendors to offer a range of free and subscription-based antivirus packages.

Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec are now part of Facebook’s third party security providers, offering a range of antivirus packages for Windows and Mac users.

The vendors have become part of the social network’s “Facebook Security Family”, which could be a major boon for security vendors who now may reach Facebook’s 900 million users.

The new security family is an addition to Facebook’s anti-scam program, which includes partnerships with Web of Trust, and its own internally developed URL screening program assisted by McAfee, Google, and Websense.

Facebook promotes the products as “free”, however some, such as Symantec’s Norton and McAfee, similar to pre-installed desktop antivirus trial versions, must be paid for after 6 months, while Microsoft’s Security Essentials for Windows and Sophos’Home Edition for Macs are actually free products.

The vendors, most of whom already have a significant following community on Facebook, have been invited to contribute to Facebook’s security blog.

“For many hundreds of millions of people, Facebook has become the default forum for sharing and consuming opinions, news and personal content. Because content is typically posted by a trusted source – a friend – many users incorrectly assume links are safe. Scammers often take advantage of the trust relationship to fool users into clicking malicious links,” said Mark Harris, VP at SophosLabs.

“Our partnership with Facebook will educate users to make more informed decisions regarding what they click on and will help reduce the spread of malicious links,” he added.

Facebook claims that less than 4 per cent of content shared on its network is spam whereas 90 per cent of email is spam.

Despite its efforts to cut spam and malware from the social network, scammers have found novel ways to exploit the platform. One recent example involved a combined fake Adobe Flash extension attack distributed on Google’s Chrome Web Store that hijacked Facebook victim’s accounts in order to sell fraudulent Facebook “Likes”.

Facebook provides useful tips on how to avoid scams on its security home page. Security researcher Daniel Peck outlined a number of tricks attackers use to compromise and attract attention of would-be victims here.

In 2011 so-called spam king Sanford Wallace faced fraud charges for compromising Facebook accounts and sending 27 million spam messages between 2008 and 2009.

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