Kara Swisher

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Facebook Gives Its PC Users Security Software Deal–Just as Its Own Security Is Questioned


Facebook has unveiled an exclusive partnership with McAfee to give its 350 million users–those who use PCs, that is–a free six-month subscription to its security software.

The deal with McAfee (MFE) comes at a slightly odd time–coinciding with yesterday’s three-ring circus in the blogosphere about an alleged employee at Facebook who claimed in an anonymous interview that the social networking powerhouse was rife with internal security abuses.

BoomTown thought the report specious at best, but it certainly brought up valid concerns that pop up regularly about consumer security–especially viruses and spam–on Facebook and on the Internet at large.

This concern has been heightened by privacy controversies over Facebook’s new policy of broadening availability of user data to the wider Web unless the user takes action to prevent it.

As Facebook grows, those worries will, obviously, only become more pronounced.

In any case, the offer with McAfee is also an interesting one in that Facebook certainly has a great audience for all kinds of companies to market to. It’s nice that the first one is so sensible.

According to a McAfee press release, its software “will be available to Facebook users in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Numerous additional countries will be added throughout Q1.”

Here is the Facebook blog post on the deal, as well as the McAfee press release below it:

Better Security through Software

One of the best defenses against security threats is a good offense, and we want to help you take the offensive by having the latest security software installed on your computer. Today, we are announcing a one-year partnership with McAfee to offer all 350 million people who use Facebook the ability to download a six-month subscription to McAfee security software at no cost, along with a special discount once the six months are over.

You can take advantage of this offer by visiting the “Protect Your PC” tab on the McAfee Page on Facebook.

We’re committed to doing everything we can to help you protect your account and make your experience on Facebook as safe and enjoyable as possible. We invest in dedicated teams and advanced technical systems that detect and block suspicious behavior. When we find a message with a link to a fake login page or other malicious website, we prevent it from being sent and delete all instances of it from the site. We also work with third parties to get malicious sites added to browser blacklists or removed completely.

For the rare case in which an account is compromised, we’ve developed a unique process that requires the account owner to take steps to secure the account and learn security best practices. We’ve also incorporated custom McAfee software into this process for people identified as having infected computers. Now, if your computer is infected, you will be asked to run a scan and clean it before accessing Facebook. We’re not aware of another free Internet service that takes this much responsibility for helping its users keep their accounts secure.

We have a lot of control over security measures on Facebook. However, we don’t control other websites and services you visit that might infect your computer. For this reason, we recommend that you install updated security software, which you can now do at no cost through this partnership, and that you always follow these safe practices:

-Don’t open attachments in emails that look suspicious or come from an unknown or untrustworthy source.
-Don’t open attachments unless you know what they are, even if they’re from friends.
-Delete chain mail and spam from your email and Facebook inboxes.
-Be cautious when downloading files from the Internet.
-Be cautious of any message, post or link you see on Facebook that looks suspicious, requires an additional login, or asks you to download or upgrade software.
-Use an up-to-date browser that features an anti-phishing blacklist. Some examples include Internet Explorer 8 and Firefox 3.0.10.
-Choose unique logins and passwords for each of the websites you use.
-Check to see that you’re logging in from a legitimate Facebook page with the facebook.com domain.

Become a fan of the Facebook Security Page to receive more tips, updates on the latest threats and other information to help you protect your computer and online accounts.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.–(Business Wire) Today McAfee, Inc. (NYSE:MFE), the world’s leading dedicated security company, and Facebook announced an unprecedented collaboration that will provide additional security protection to a significant portion of the Internet population. Through this partnership, the two companies have jointly created security solutions that include McAfee security software, a custom scanning and repair tool, and consumer friendly education materials that Facebook will make available to its more than 350 million users. In total, this is a first-of-its-kind security offering that represents a major milestone in the fight to secure the Internet and reduce global cybercrime.

Under the terms of the partnership, McAfee is Facebook’s exclusive provider of consumer security software, and Facebook users will be eligible for a complimentary six-month subscription of the McAfee Internet Security™ Suite software. Following the six-month period, Facebook users will be eligible for special discount subscription pricing. Facebook is applying all financial incentives from this partnership to the benefit of its users and will not be taking a share of any revenue from user subscriptions. McAfee Internet Security Suite software protects users’ PCs from online threats, viruses, spyware, hackers, online scammers, identity thieves and other cybercriminals, and includes award-winning McAfee® SiteAdvisor® site rating technology.

In the rare instance a Facebook account is compromised, Facebook has developed an innovative process that requires users to take steps to re-secure their Facebook account and learn security best practices. As part of this partnership, this process will now also include custom McAfee technology to clean users’ computers. There is no charge for use of this tool.

To keep users educated about the latest threats, Facebook and McAfee will work together to develop educational content for the Facebook Security Page (http://www.facebook.com/security), Facebook’s principal resource for security-related information with more than one million fans. McAfee will also continuously update its own Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/mcafee), which features the offer on the “Protect Your PC” tab as well as security information on “Protect Your Kids” and “Security Notes” tabs.

“Facebook is very serious about security and has made significant efforts to protect its users and service by investing in dedicated teams and sophisticated systems, and this partnership with McAfee furthers that mission,” said Todd Gebhart, executive vice president and general manager, McAfee Consumer, Mobile and Small Business. “We believe our partnership will make a real difference in the battle to secure the Internet by giving so many more people access to industry leading technology from McAfee.”

Facebook selected McAfee after a competitive review process among the leading security vendors. McAfee is rated the number one vendor in threat detection,1 and McAfee Active Protection™ technology provides protection by blocking both known and unknown online threats almost instantly.

Research has shown that up to 78 percent of consumers do not have updated anti-virus, an enabled firewall and anti-spyware, and 48 percent of them have expired anti-virus, the most fundamental protection2. So many people without even the most basic protection for their computers are an obvious risk to themselves, but also to people with whom they interact online. Thea greement between McAfee and Facebook is designed to address this problem.

“By partnering with a market leader like McAfee, we are taking an unprecedented step towards making the entire Internet more secure and reducing the possibility of threats being brought onto our service by unsuspecting users,” said Elliot Schrage, vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy, Facebook. “Keeping the Internet secure requires that users, security vendors and Internet companies all work together. We think we’ve developed an excellent model for this collaboration, and to ensure the greatest possible value to our users, Facebook will not accept any revenue from subscriptions. We hope this is something that other services will emulate.”

Upon launch, McAfee Internet Security Suite software will be available to Facebook users in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Numerous additional countries will be added throughout Q1.

1 Av-Test.org malware detection results published in Computerbild magazine (Issue 26 12/05/09)

2 Source: 2007 McAfee-National Cyber Security Alliance Online Safety Study

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik