Love it or hate it, social networking is here to stay…at least for a while. Undoubtedly, websites like Facebook are appealing for a lot of reasons: You can connect with friends and family members who live far away; you can satisfy your curiosity about a former classmate; you can find out which Italian restaurant in your area has the best pasta primavera; and, if you're a business owner, you can tap the power of word-of-mouth to ratchet up sales.But there's a dark side too. Your information can get in the wrong hands. You can get scammed. Your computer could be shut down by malware or a virus. For businesses, social networking can pose an even greater risk. Take the chances of one person's computer being compromised and multiply that by how many employees check their Facebook accounts each day.( According to IT research and advisory firm Nucleus Research, more than three-quarters of them do.)
BitDefender thinks it has a solution to the security problems posed by Facebook. This week, the company released the beta of safego, an application that checks a user's privacy levels, identifies personal info that's visible to strangers, and scans a user's wall, inbox, and comments for shared content that's been compromised.
"Since Facebook is a relatively new communication and networking platform that provides several ways to interact, it opens new windows for spammers," says Catalin Cosoi, head of the Online Threats Lab at BitDefender. "Instead of sending billions of spam messages hoping to hook somebody, they can use the network to see what people want and serve them tailored content. Because spammers can see how people are interacting, they can be very successful impersonating a target's friend and then scamming them."
Cosoi says Facebook scams are rife. One example is "share-jacking," where the user believes he or she is choosing different application interfaces but is really choosing "share" and "like." Another is tied to donations, which Cosoi says are commonly made through Facebook. "People end up giving out their financial information, not thinking a campaign or cause is actually a scam," he adds.
Safego, which is free, gets installed in a user's Facebook profile and uses the BitDefender Security Cloud to scan posts, comments, and inbox contents. If a post or link is detected as spam, phishing, or malware, safego will comment on that post, cautioning the user not to open it. The application also notifies users to delete posts from their walls. Other features of safego:
-Users are warned when they should modify their Facebook privacy settings so that personal info isn't exposed. -To get a snapshot of their Facebook security status, a user simply hits the "scan now" button. -Users can warn their friends about infected links in their Facebook accounts. -Facebook accounts are protected 24x7, even when a user isn't logged in.
"Spammers have a rising interest in all social networks, especially Facebook since more and more people are joining it every day," says Cosoi. "Targeting Facebook users will become a common way to spread malware."