Another Way to Fight Mischief on Facebook

July 7, 2010, 6:38 PM

As Facebook’s popularity has soared, it has become an attractive place for spam, scams and malware. And while Facebook is often quick to remove such mischief, a tool for protecting profiles would be useful to many people.

Enter Defensio, which was created to keep user-generated dross off blogs and corporate Web sites, but has been available in a beta version for Facebook users since January. It is free to anyone with a Facebook profile, and more than 10,000 people are using it, according to Websense, the Web-filtering software firm that acquired Defensio in January 2009.

In the fall, when Defensio exits beta, Websense plans to charge corporate and celebrity users $300 to $8,000 a year to keep promotional Facebook pages clean, depending on the volume of comments on their pages. Otherwise, the application will be free.

Defensio works by warning users about Web links that lead to malware, phishing scams, pornography, gambling and spam, as well as about comments that include profanity, hate speech and “tasteless” content, so you can delete them. In addition to being free and simple to set up and use, it allows swifter justice and better control than simply relying on what Facebook provides.

To get started, visit Defensio’s site while logged into your Facebook account, and click the “Sign up Now” button and then the Facebook icon. In the Facebook window that opens, accept the Defensio application, give it permission to access your data and supply an e-mail address where it can send you alerts.

On the settings page, you can select whether you want Defensio to warn you about suspect and impolite content by e-mail or not. While it can delete suspect content automatically on businesses’ promotional pages, if you’re using Defensio for a personal profile this feature is disabled and you will have to manually delete offending posts.

In my test, Defensio was quick to catch several off-color posts I added to the wall of my (friend-free) test account. It also warned me almost immediately that links to Playboy, Hustler and an online-gambling site appeared to be spam.

Defensio was a little slower to catch security threats, certainly a trickier task. But within a few minutes, it did spot malicious links to sites laced with malware and phishing attacks Websense supplied. To add difficulty, I tried five malicious links recently included on an online list that security professionals use for testing purposes. Defensio quickly sent me e-mail warnings about possible malicious content.

Websense said that it still faced technical issues with Facebook that caused some delay in delivering updates to the application needed to catch the newest attacks, but that it expected to have them resolved by fall when it unveiled Defensio formally.

Websense says it uses a cocktail of new technologies to identify malware, as well as traditional security technologies like antivirus and site blacklists. The more data inputs it gets from its customers and users, the smarter and better its system will get, it says.

via Another Way to Fight Mischief on Facebook – Gadgetwise Blog – NYTimes.com.

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