On Wednesday, security firms Sophos, Trend Micro and Symantec announced that they have inked deals with Facebook to help the social networking giant protect its massive user base.
As part of the deal with Sophos, Facebook will add Sophos’ website reputation service to its existing security measures to help protect users from malicious links. The deal was originally set to be announced back on April 10, but was pushed back twice due to Facebook's $1 billion acquisition of Instagram, Sophos told SecurityWeek.
For Trend Micro and Symantec, a similar deal is in place. With Trend Micro, Facebook will support integration of the Trend Micro "Smart Protection Network" infrastructure, which uses cloud technology, threat correlation, and a global network of threat intelligence sensors to help stop malware and web threats before they reach a users' computer. Symantec's Norton brand will also work with Facebook to detect and alert users to potentially malicious URLs on the site.
To help protect its users, Facebook uses a security tool that it calls "the link shim" which helps determine if a shared link is malicious. The tool has been in use since 2008, and each time a link is clicked on the Facebook site, the link shim checks the URL against its internal list of malicious links, along with a list coming from external sources. According to Facebook, the external partners providing malicious URL intelligence includes McAfee, Google, Web of Trust, and Websense. Moving foward, Sophos, Trend Micro and Norton join that list of providers feeding intelligence into the database.
In the event Facebook determines that a URL is malicious, the site will inform users and present them with a page giving them a choice to continue at their own risk, return to the previous screen, or learn why the link was flagged as suspicious.
“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, vice president, 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.”
"Now that Facebook is a primary platform for communication, whether you're nine or ninety-nine, it's only become a bigger target for cybercriminals," said Carol Carpenter, general manager, consumer division at Trend Micro. "This is why we're thrilled to partner with Facebook to offer an additional layer of protection to users so they don't have to think twice when interacting with friends and uploading pictures from their weekend."
Also as part of the announcement, each vendor will be offering free software trials to Facebook users. Trend Micro is offering Facebook PC users a free 6-month trial of its Trend Micro Titanium Security Essentials, and for Facebook Mac users a free trial of Trend Micro™ Smart Surfing for Mac. For Sophos, Mac users will be able to download the free Sophos Anti-Virus for Mac Home Edition. Also as a member of the Facebook AV Marketplace, Norton will provide Facebook users with a six-month trial of Norton AntiVirus 2012.