Facebook, McAfee team on Facebook security effort

Relationship begins with McAfee offering Facebook users a free six-month subscription to its Internet Security Suite software

Facebook and McAfee have formed a partnership aimed at improving security for Facebook's 350 million users.

Facebook and McAfee have formed a partnership aimed at improving security for Facebook's 350 million users, the two companies announced.

Social networking hacks: Top 10 Facebook and Twitter security stories of 2009The new relationship begins with McAfee offering Facebook users a free six-month subscription to its Internet Security Suite software. But it goes far beyond that. McAfee will also be working closely with Facebook to provide a free quick response scan-and-repair service for any new malware threats that emerge. McAfee's security contribution dovetails with Facebook's larger security effort, which now includes an automated process for detecting anomalies in Facebook users' accounts that might indicate malware or hacker attempts.

If Facebook determines a user has a security-related problem, an automated process kicks in and displays screens from Facebook informing the user a remediation process is underway, initially shutting the user out of the account, says Barry Schnitt, director of policy communications at Facebook.

Password changes would be invoked, along with other possible security remediation processes, such as running a malware clean-up. Phone-based support from Facebook's team could be part of helping the Facebook user get back to normal.

"Few people have problems today with Facebook," Schnitt points out. But with social-networking worms such as Koobface on the rise, along with attackers looking to harvest Facebook passwords, there's a need to keep pushing harder on security protections.

Chances are, "if you have a problem, you'll know it," Schnitt says.

Facebook initiated automated remediation of compromised accounts last July and Wednesday's expansion of the effort with support from McAfee represents its latest step in defending Facebook and its users.

Brent Remai, McAfee's vice president of global consumer marketing, says the partnership will entail McAfee offering its Internet Security Suite software to users at a reduced price, though that price has not yet been announced.

Under the arrangement with Facebook -- which says it's not sharing revenues from any software sales that McAfee might make related to Facebook users -- McAfee will be on call around the clock to help tackle new security threats that appear to be targeting Facebook users. Schnitt says this goes to the heart of the arrangement and is why Facebook wants to team with McAfee.

"We can block malware and reset passwords," Schnitt says. "One thing we don't have direct expertise in is protecting PCs." But that's what Facebook, with help from McAfee, is setting out to do as a free service to try to keep the social-networking site safe for its many millions of users.

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