Los Angeles -- In order to safeguard its 900 million plus users from online attacks, social media leader Facebook last week forged an alliance with five top notch security vendors (Microsoft, McAfee, TrendMicro, Sophos, and Symantec) and an anti-virus marketplace to provide improved security for its users and to protect its members' data as the social networking site has become a fertile breeding ground for hoaxes, spam and chain letters.
The announcement came as a note on the Facebook Security Facebook page. The marketplace is currently offering products from several leading antivirus firms, which will allow users to download a six-month free trials from big-name anti-virus companies listed above.
In fact the news is two-fold: Apart from the social media giant empowering its users with access to full version of antivirus software free for six months, Facebook will also embed the malicious URL databases from these companies into their own URL blacklist system, which scans trillions of clicks per day is in place to prevent spam and malicious content links on Facebook.
Although the downloads are full versions of the software, users only receive a six-month license to use it. According to Facebook, spam makes up less than four per cent of the content shared on its pages.
“We believe that arming our users with anti-virus software will help empower them to stay safe no matter where they are on the web,” Facebook said in a blog post.
By the way, Facebook will notify users if the link they clicked on is malicious, and users will be sent to a page that offers the choice to continue at their own risk, return to the previous screen, or obtain more information on why the link was flagged as suspicious.
According to Websense Security Labs, a US-based firm specializing in web screening software, noted that around 55 per cent of data-theft malware communications are on the internet while 82 per cent of malicious websites are hosted on compromised hosts.
On the other hand, Charles Renert, vice-president of Websense, said that approximately 43 per cent of activities on Facebook are streaming media, which is more than five times the next largest category of news and media within Facebook.
Now let us discuss about the free software, since everyone prefers free stuff. The AV Marketplace is intended for the hundreds of millions of Facebook users who do not currently have security protection on their computer. Facebook allows you to download licenses to full versions of antivirus software: Microsoft Security Essentials, McAfee Internet Security 2012, Norton AntiVirus, Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition, and Trend Micro internet security for PCs and Macs. After six months, for the ones that are not free forever, you will have to pay up.
Furthermore, these security firms will also write posts on Facebook's Security Blog with information about how to stay safe on the social media network. “Truly effective security requires cooperation,” Facebook said.
Users can seamlessly access the marketplace from the Facebook Security Page, or via this direct link: on.fb.me/FBAVMarketplace. Facebook would not say, but it is assumed that it will eventually expand its list of antivirus partners to offer further free alternatives for its users.
“This means that whenever you click a link on our site, you benefit not just from Facebook's existing protections, but the ongoing vigilance of the world's leading corporations involved in computer security,” Facebook said. “At the moment, less than 4 percent of content shared is spam (compared to nearly 90 percent of email) and we are looking forward to making even more progress in the future.”
Lastly, under-wraps, a six-month license means this initiative seems more like an advertising collaboration with these firms than a selfless giveaway for users' protection. Things especially begin to smell of an ad campaign when you realize the company whose software you have chosen must be “liked” by you on Facebook to start the download. It is also odd that Microsoft Security Essentials, which is already free for Windows users, is in the marketplace alongside Norton AntiVirus and McAfee.